Since the ascendance of the Castro regime in Cuba, the U.S. Treasury Department has used economic sanctions as a manner of shutting out the nation and encouraging a transition from communism to democracy.
In recent years, several notable OFAC regulations and restrictions have been eased. This is at least partially due to long-time dictator Fidel Castro stepping down and ceding power to his brother Raul, who has implemented some market-based reforms.
Although the guidelines are currently being updated by the Office of Foreign Assets control, travel restrictions and remittances between family members in the United States and relatives in Cuba are slowly becoming less onerous. In 2011, the allowances were extended to include exceptions for educational, religious, and journalism-related travel. This gives greater leeway to individuals, organizations, and businesses, although most commercial activity is still limited and requires an OFAC license.
Outside of those limited guidelines, financial and other transactions involving U.S.-based persons or businesses are still prohibited. The total ban against importing Cuban-origin goods, such as cigars, is still active—even if the transaction also involves a third country.