The Obama administration has lifted its ban on trips to Cuba to deliver U.S. aid to pro-democracy groups, apparently toughening its posture after Havana's recent abuses, officials said Thursday.
Such trips were halted after the Dec. 3 arrest of Alan P. Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor who had delivered satellite communications equipment to Jewish groups.
The State Department this week notified organizations that receive U.S. funds for Cuban democracy programs that they can resume the trips, said three officials of groups involved in the programs.
"To me, this sends a clear signal that [the Obama administration] is not in agreement with what's going on in the island," said one of the officials, who like the others requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
He referred to Cuba's crackdown against the Ladies in White and the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata after a lengthy hunger strike, which drew a recent condemnation from President Barack Obama.
Word that the travel could resume was accompanied, however, by a caution: Do not take to the island more equipment or money than you can explain if you're stopped by Cuban officials.
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