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With fewer restrictions, Triangle residents look forward to visiting Cuba

Posted March 16

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— On Wednesday evening, as President Barack Obama met with Cuban-American leaders at the White House, his staff was busy detailing his upcoming trip to the Caribbean island nation.

The president is scheduled to arrive in Havana on Sunday, just days after announcing changes to the U.S. policy with Cuba.

Jeff Hedgepeth, of Nash County, who has visited Cuba many times, says the Cuban people "grip his heart."

He works with churches and is currently planning a trip in June. Now, with fewer travel restrictions, he said he is looking forward to a continued improvement in relations with Cuba.

"If it makes it less expensive, makes the country more open to travel there, then I'm all for it," he said.

Jeff Ensminger, of Durham, also frequents Cuba. He has visited 15 times and established NEEM, a North Carolina group focused on environmental and ecological management in Cuba.

"We've taken 26 groups (to Cuba) under NEEM's license," he said.

He plans to take several more groups this year, especially since there is a growing interest and the U.S. is not allowing citizens to travel to Cuba independently with a people-to-people visa.

The government still requires anyone traveling to have an itinerary with educational activities and to document it.

While in Cuba, Obama will visit cultural sites in Old Havana and meet with Cardinal Jaime Ortega. He'll also meet with President Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution, interact with Cuban dissidents and attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game.


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