Tourists talk to the owner of bicycle taxi with US flag
Washington - AFP
The United States on Tuesday removed sanctions on nearly five dozen shipping companies, trading firms and individuals that had been blacklisted for links to Cuba.
The sweeping delisting came as Washington and Havana progress in negotiations to restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility.
Most of the companies removed from the US Treasury sanctions list were based in Panama.
Also included were several ships registered elsewhere, and two firms in Florida.
The US Treasury gave no details on why the companies had been on its sanctions list, but according to the Cuba-based news agency Prensa Latina, they are Cuban-controlled or have links to Cuba.
Last week Washington and Havana wrapped up a third round of talks on normalizing relations, which were focused on the path towards reestablishing formal relations and reopening embassies.
President Barack Obama is keen for the two countries to reopen embassies ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11.
But the communist island has insisted it first be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terror.
The two sides remain at odds on several other thorny issues, such as compensation for American property nationalized after the Cuban Revolution and freedom of movement for diplomats.
And lifting the trade and financial embargo the United States slapped on Cuba in 1962 would require approval from Congress -- a difficult political battle with both houses currently under Republican control.
The two sides are next due to meet in late March, when they will address the delicate issue of human rights for the first time.