US & Canada

US Republicans vote to keep Cuba travel curbs

Cycle taxi with US flag in Havana. 30 Jan 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Obama wants to allow more US citizens to visit Cuba

The US House of Representatives has voted to keep restrictions on US citizens travelling to Cuba, despite a recent thaw in relations.

The Republican-controlled chamber rejected proposals to allow regular scheduled flights to the island.

It also said a rule should remain requiring Americans to get a special licence before going to Cuba.

The House was voting on a transport funding bill which has provisions related to Cuba.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.

New rules issued by the Obama administration in January were aimed at easing travel restrictions to Cuba and allowing scheduled flights for the first time.

But Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said the White House was wrong to lift the restrictions.

He said it would mean flights landing at an airport that was partially owned by US interests when it was seized by the Cuban government.

"What you are saying is, 'It's OK to do business on property that was stolen from Americans'," said Mr Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American.

The thaw in relations between the US and Cuba was announced late last year in simultaneous televised speeches by President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.

President Obama, a Democrat, used his executive powers to ease the embargo that has existed for more than 50 years, defying hardline critics.

However, the issue is caught in a battle between Republicans, who control Congress, and the White House.

More on this story