Washington: The US government has removed 45 Cuban companies, individuals and vessels from a list of entities suspected of supporting terrorism or drug trafficking, in an effort to promote stronger bilateral ties. The removal of these sanctions, however, does not mean Cuba is being taken off the US State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a potential step Havana is demanding and Washington is still mulling.  The Treasury Department on Tuesday removed six individuals, 28 entities and 11 vessels from the list.

Several of the companies operate in Cuba’s tourism industry, such as Caribbean Happy Lines and the Guama travel agency, while others are naval suppliers or are involved in the fishing industry, such as Abastecedora Naval e Industrial and Pescados y Mariscos de Panama.  More than 30 of the 45 companies, individuals and vessels are currently based in Panama despite having originated in Cuba, while one ship, the Alegria de Pio, is registered in Spain and one company, Travel Services Inc., has its headquarters in the US.

The sanctions imposed on those companies and individuals barred them from doing business in the US and froze any assets they may have had.  The move “is in line with (President Barack Obama’s) Cuba policy,” a US official said.  On December 17, 2014, Washington and Havana announced a plan to restore diplomatic relations and in that spirit Obama has already loosened restrictions on US residents’ travel to Cuba.

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