Obama wants Americans to enjoy Cuban cigars and rum again

Contraband no more.
Contraband no more.
Image: Reuters/Desmond Boylan
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Americans will now be able to bring in as much Cuban rum and cigars into the US as they please. Today, US president Barack Obama lifted import restrictions on the iconic Cuban products, as part of his administration’s rapprochement with the Caribbean island.

Until now, American travelers to Cuba had only been allowed to carry back up to $100 in rum and cigars. Under the new rules, there will no longer be a limit and the goods can be purchased anywhere in the world that sells them, not just in Cuba.

The change is part of a broader package of measures to increase exchanges between the two countries. For example, American companies will be able to import Cuban drugs into the US and some Cuban consumers will be allowed to buy certain products online.

But of all the new provisions, the one on rum and cigars will likely be the most broadly welcomed. Until recently, the US’s icy relationship with Cuba, and the trade embargo that is still in place, had made them illegal contraband—and highly coveted.

The new import rules only apply to personal consumption, so don’t expect to find Cohibas and Cuban Havana Club on American store shelves. (One version of Havana Club is already sold in the US, but it’s not made in Cuba and its producer, Bacardi, is entangled in a copyright dispute with the Cuban government over the brand.) On the other hand, you can fit a lot of bottles of rum in a suitcase.

Havana Club fans are already celebrating the news.