Trade and travel ties grow for Cubans, Cuban Americans25 April 2014
AFP, Havana :
A rise in trade and travel is helping bridge a gulf that has divided Cubans from expats in Florida for more than half a century, experts said.
Some experts say relations are better than at any time since the rupture in diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington in the early 1960's, in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution-in part because of looser travel restrictions on both sides.
The ties "have never been so diverse or so rich" between the 11 million inhabitants on the communist-run island and the 1.5 million Cuban Americans in the United States, said Carlos Alzugaray, a Cuban former diplomat and university professor.
Denisse Delgado, a sociologist at the Catholic University in San Antonio, Spain, said the current climate of increased travel offers greater opportunity for "the transmission of ideas, values and ways of living" that can help recreate common ground for the two communities seeking to bridge a decades-long political divide.
Starting in January 2013, Cuba opened its doors, allowing more of its citizens to travel abroad. In 2013, Cubans took some 300,000 trips out of the country - - a 40 percent increase over the previous year-and about a third were to the United States.
At the same time, the United States greatly increased the number of visas it issued to Cubans. It also extended their validity to five years, allowing visa holders to make multiple trips.