Members' Research Service By / February 25, 2015

Change in US-Cuba relations

Written by Jan Baeverstroem The Cuban release of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross on December 17, 2014 established a new phase…

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Written by Jan Baeverstroem

The Cuban release of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross on December 17, 2014 established a new phase in the relation between the two countries as noted in President Obama’s statement that day. Economic policy reform in Cuba and a lowering support in the US for the embargo that has lasted for more than 50 years have prompted a rapprochement. However, the slow pace of political reforms in Cuba and the limited powers of the US President to make radical changes without Congress may probably lead to a slower and prudent process of dismantling the embargo.

New measures have been published on 16 January 2015 via amendments in the Treasury’s CACR and in the Commerce’s EAR ). These further the reforms aimed at facilitating authorised travels, travels-related transactions, remittances and expanding the scope of export exceptions. Congressmen have introduced several bills o US-Cuba relations, but on February 12, a bi-partisan bill was introduced in the Senate. This bill aims at rolling back sections of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the so called Helms–Burton Act, but provisions concerning human rights and property claims would be kept in place . One day later, the Congressional Research Service published an overview ” Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations “.

President Obama’s Statement on new Cuba policy


Change in US-Cuba relations
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Future scenarios for US-Cuba relations / EPRS Briefing by Laura Puccio posted on 09 February 2015
The US embargo to Cuba has been in place for more than 50 years. International opposition to the embargo has grown since the beginning of the 1990s when US embargo legislation started to present extraterritorial implications. More recently, domestic support for the embargo has also started fading. US economic interest in the island has risen since Cuba became an importer of US agricultural products, and a series of economic policy reforms were introduced by the Castro government opening the way toward a mixed economy model. In this context and after successfully concluding a prisoner-exchange deal with Cuba, President Obama announced a period of normalisation.

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations / Dianne E. Rennack & Mark P. Sullivan, February 13, 2015
This report provides information on legislative provisions restricting relations with Cuba. It lists the various provisions of law comprising economic sanctions on Cuba, including key laws that are the statutory basis of the embargo, and provides information on the authority to lift or waive these restrictions

Cuba: US Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress / Congressional Research Service, 29 December 2014
With regard to President Obama’s December 2014 announcement that there will be a change in the policy toward Cuba, some Members of Congress lauded the initiative as in the best interests of the United States and a better way to support change in Cuba, while other Members strongly criticised the President for not obtaining concessions from Cuba to advance human rights in the country. With some Members vowing to oppose the Administration’s efforts toward normalisation, the direction of U.S.-Cuban relations are likely to be hotly debated in the 114th Congress

US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 Cuba , April 2014

Briefing on Changes in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba / Special Briefing, Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, December 18, 2014

News on migration talks , 8 Jan 2015


U.S. and Cuba Face a Long Road Ahead to Normalization / By Christopher Sabatini, Worlds Politics Review, Jan. 21, 2015

Cuba’s international trade / At a glance by Schöllmann, Wilhelm; European Parliamentary Research Service. 2015
Cuba’s main imports are machinery, food and fuel products, while its major exports are refined fuels, sugar, tobacco, nickel and pharmaceuticals. In addition to merchandise exports, Cuba

Analysis of President Obama’s announcement regarding the release of Alan Gross and the future of U.S.-Cuba relations / Eric L. Olson, Wilson Center, Dec 31, 2014
The President now has announced a major shift in U.S. policy, from isolation to engagement. While the President is not able to lift the U.S. embargo—which has been codified in law and can only be modified by the U.S. Congress—he has announced a series of steps that could lead to full normalization of relations, the opening of embassies, and the exchange of ambassadors. Additionally, he announced measures that can have a profound impact on people-to-people contacts and Cuban entrepreneurship, by easing banking restrictions and expanding trade, commerce, travel, and connectivity between both countries.

The Cuba Deal: Why Now? / Moisés Naím, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 18, 2014
The decision to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba was driven by a surprising convergence of biology and technology

The Cuba Opening: American Foreign Policy Meets Reality / Ted Galen Carpenter, National Interest, December 18, 2014
A willingness to restore diplomatic ties with Havana suggests that perhaps the suffocating Wilsonian approach to U.S. diplomacy may finally be weakening.

What does President Obama’s new Cuba policy mean? / By Carl Meacham, CSIS Center for Strategic and International Studies, DEC 17, 2014
Wednesday morning (December 17), USAID contractor Alan Gross boarded a Washington-bound plane upon his release from Cuban prison on humanitarian grounds. This news was already groundbreaking—but what would unfold in the following hours was even more so.

Cuba Democracy Assistance : USAID’s Program Is Improved, but State Could Better Monitor Its Implementing Partners / GAO-13-285: Jan 25, 2013. Publicly Released: Feb 7, 2013.

U.S. Embargo on Cuba: Recent Regulatory Changes and Potential Presidential or Congressional Actions / U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) GAO-09-951R: Published: Sep 17, 2009

Stakeholder views

US Congress

Statement of the High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini on US-Cuba relations , 17/12/2014
“This is also the EU approach. It is in this spirit that earlier this year we opened negotiations on a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement which would serve as an enabling framework for closer engagement in support of the on-going reform and modernisation process in Cuba. Human rights remain at the heart of EU policy towards Cuba. The EU seeks to expand relations with all parts of Cuban society, promoting economic and social progress, dynamic dialogue and strengthened respect for fundamental rights”

Chairman Menendez’s Statement on U.S. – Cuba Relationship / Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), issued this statement regarding the U.S. – Cuba relationship., Wednesday, December 17, 2014
“It is a fallacy that Cuba will reform just because the American President believes that if he extends his hand in peace that the Castro brothers suddenly will unclench their fists. A majority of democratic activists on the island, including many that I have met with, have been explicit that they want the U.S. to become open to Cuba only when there is reciprocal movement by the Castro government. They understand that the Castros will not accede to change in any other way.
“The United States has just thrown the Cuban regime an economic lifeline. With the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, Cuba is losing its main benefactor, but will now receive the support of the United States, the greatest democracy in the world. This is a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve and this announcement only perpetuates the Castro regime’s decades of repression.

Rand Paul Versus Marco Rubio: Some Libertarian Air Is Good for Cuban-American Politics / Arturo Lopez Levy, Hufington Post, 01/05/2015

In a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury on January 14, 2015, Senators Coats (R-Ind.) and Rubio (R-Fla.) requtired the Department of the Treasury to explain how they intend to implement the change and about their legal authority of easining the sanctions.


Cuba’s President of the State Council and Council of Ministers (Raúl Castro’s) statement on the willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality,, 17 Dec. 2014

OAS – Organization of American States

OAS Permanent Council Adopts Declaration Supporting the Rapprochement between the United States and Cuba , December 22, 2014

Thinktanks and NGOs

Neither by force nor seduction shall Cuba fall / By Manuel E. Yepe, A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann. 2 January 2015

Cuba Targets Domestic Critics with Harassment, Arrest , / Freedom House, 31 December 2014

The Cuban Knot : The Vatican’s Strategy in Havana / By Victor Gaetan, Foreign Affairs, 30 December 2014
Jewish groups made Alan Gross, the prisoner at the heart of the reversal, impossible to ignore; and then the Catholic hierarchy provided the trust required to move the negotiations beyond stalemate. U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will surely benefit from the thaw in different ways, but anti-Castro Catholics resent the Church’s involvement.

What Lessons Does the Opening of the German Democratic Republic in 1990 Teach Us about the U.S. Opening to Cuba? / Diana Villiers Negroponte, Brookings, December 23, 2014

How Congress Should Respond to the President’s Radical Change in Cuba Policy / By Ana Quintana, Heritage Issue Brief #4326 on Caribbean, December 23, 2014

On Cuba, Obama Goes Long and Castro Holds On / Ted Piccone, Brookings comments, December 22, 2014

“Obama y Castro sellan una apuesta arriesgada pero inevitable” / Anna Ayuso, Opinión CIDOB, n.º 292, 22 de Diciembre, 2014
La voluntad política de ambos líderes y las iniciativas de actores de la región como Canadá o extra-regionales como el Vaticano dadas a conocer por ambos mandatarios fue determinante, pero más aún los cambios en el contexto internacional, en la región y en el interior de ambos países que hacían insostenible mantener el statu quo

Cuba and the United States: A triumph of political realism / Roberto M. Yepe Papastamatin ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento, 2014-12-21
The normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will certainly face powerful and recalcitrant enemies that are already preparing their counter attack to complicate, to halt and eventually, to reverse this process. The personal insults against president Obama and members of his cabinet will intensify. But everything indicates that these forces will not be able to prevail, because they are fighting against an unstoppable historic trend and the most profound social factors acting in both Cuban and American societies that converge toward a renewed relation of normality

Cuban Comrades : The Truth About Washington and Havana’s New Detente / By Michael J. Bustamante, Foreign Affairs, 21 December 2014
Most Cuba watchers were skeptical, and they cautioned against reading too much into the encounter. But as Wednesday’s historic announcement of a new direction in U.S.-Cuban policy made clear, sometimes a handshake is more than a just a handshake

After the Thaw: What’s Next in U.S.-Cuba Relations? / Julia E. Sweig, Danielle Renwick, Council on Foreign Relations, December 19, 2014
The opening of U.S. diplomatic ties with Cuba will bring real change to the island and raise Washington’s stature in the region, says CFR’s Julia Sweig.

Cuba Detente Is the Latest Sign the Cold War Is Over / by Richard N. Haass, Council on Foreign Relations, December 18, 2014
By opening the door to diplomacy, the Obama administration is betting that greater interaction with Cuba can accomplish what political and economic isolation could not, writes CFR’s Richard N. Haass

When will Cuba improve relations with its own journalists ? / Reporters without Borders, 18 December 2014

U.S. Chamber Welcomes Progress in U.S.-Cuba Relations / December 17, 2014
“As we witnessed on our exploratory trip to Havana earlier this year, Cuba has changed some of its economic policies to lessen government control or ownership of Cuban businesses, and subsequently, their private sector is growing”

Cuba-U.S. Thaw Marks Opportunity to Promote Reform, Greater Freedom , / Freedom House, December 17, 2014.

End of the Cuba Embargo? / Moisés Naím, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 17, 2014
The United States and Cuba have agreed to a prisoner swap that could signal the end of the embargo that dates to the Cold War.

Media Conference Call: U.S.-Cuba Relations / with Julia E. Sweig, Danielle Renwick, Council on Foreign Relations, December 17, 2014
CFR Director of Latin America Studies Julia Sweig discusses historic changes to the relationship between the United States and Cuba

The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council’ s purpose is to provide an efficient and sustainable educational structure in which the United States business community may access accurate, consistent, and timely information and analysis on matters and issues of interest regarding United States-Republic of Cuba commercial, economic, and political relations.
The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council does not take positions with respect to United States – Republic of Cuba political relations

Case law

Supreme Court on the travel embargo against Cuba

Haig v. Agee 453 U.S. 280 (1981)

Regan v. Wald 468 U.S. 222 (1984)


European Union, Trade in goods with Cuba (EC. DG TRADE)

Cuba in Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom 2014

Balance preliminar de las economías de América Latina y el Caribe ▪ 2014 1 -Cuba / ONU, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe, Diciembre 2014
En la presente versión del Balance Preliminar de las Economías de América Latina y el Caribe se analiza el desempeño de las economías de la región en 2014 y sus perspectivas de de crecimiento y desafíos de política para 2015.

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