Improved diplomacy to affect Cuba trip

As students are getting ready to depart for Cuba this Saturday, President Barack Obama’s December announcement declaring the country’s efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba affects restrictions on educational travel groups and may ease travel to Cuba in the future.

Although tourists are still not allowed to travel to Cuba, traveling rights are expanding for travelers who already qualify under the guidelines for U.S. citizens and residents travel to Cuba. All travelers must travel under a “general license” or a “specific license,” said CubaPuentes, Inc., an organization that develops necessary elements to enable travel to Cuba.

Under the category of “educational activity,” students on both the Digital Storytelling Adventure: Cuba trip, led by visual arts department head Cheri Gaulke, from Jan. 17-25 and the Media Arts Collaboration: Cuba trip, led by visual arts teachers Alyssa Sherwood and Joe Medina, from March 28 to April 5 will experience less restrictive travel rights.

At a pre-departure information meeting on Jan. 10, families were informed that with the new rules, participating students will be allowed to bring home $400 worth of Cuban goods, including Cuban cigars.

Although credit card use is now allowed, the school specified that students will not be able to use them because of lack of credit card machines.

“There definitely will be changes,” Debbie Davis, an organizer at the Friendship Tours World Travel, said. “But we’re not sure exactly how.”

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