Is it technically illegal for US citizens to visit Cuba?

As far as my understanding goes, you can visit Cuba, but you cannot spend money there. The USA has an embargo on Cuba. Wikipedia has a pretty solid article on it. You need a license to actually participate in commerce... but since that includes buying food you in essence cannot go to Cuba.
Licenses are released however. I have a Cuban uncle who goes back once a year. The valid reasons as per wikitravel are:
Professional journalists on assignment in Cuba
Full-time professionals conducting academic research or attending professional conferences
Persons on official government business
The following are issued on a case by case basis:
Persons visiting immediate family in Cuba
Full-time graduate students conducting academic research to be counted toward a graduate degree
Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a study abroad program of at least 10 weeks in length
Professors/teachers employed at a US institution travelling to Cuba to teach
Persons engaging in religious activities
Freelance journalists
Persons engaging in humanitarian projects
Persons engaging in non-profit cultural exhibitions
So in summary, is it open travel? No. Is it possible? Yes. The most common way around this that I have heard is "travel writers."

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