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Friday, October 21, 2011

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Restrictions on travel to Cuba have been a key and often contentious component in U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. Under the George W. Bush Administration, restrictions on travel and on private remittances to Cuba were tightened. In March 2003, the Administration eliminated travel for people-to-people educational exchanges unrelated to academic coursework. In June 2004, the Administration further restricted family and educational travel, eliminated the category of fully-hosted travel, and restricted remittances so that they could only be sent to the remitter’s immediate family. Initially there was mixed reaction to the Administration’s June 2004 tightening of Cuba travel and remittance restrictions, but opposition to the policy grew, especially within the Cuban American community regarding the restrictions on family travel and remittances.

Under the Obama Administration, Congress took action in March 2009 by including two provisions in the FY2009 omnibus appropriations measure (P.L. 111-8) that eased restrictions on family travel and travel related to marketing and sale of agricultural and medical goods to Cuba. Subsequently, in April 2009, President Obama announced that his Administration would go further and allow unlimited family travel and remittances. Regulations implementing these changes were issued in September 2009. The new regulations also included the authorization of general licenses for travel transactions for telecommunications-related sales and for attendance at professional meetings related to commercial telecommunications.

In January 2011, the Obama Administration announced policy changes further easing restrictions on travel and remittances. The measures (1) increase purposeful travel to Cuba related to religious, educational, and people-to-people exchanges; (2) allow any U.S. person to send remittances to non-family members in Cuba and make it easier for religious institutions to send remittances for religious activities; and (3) permit all U.S. international airports to apply to provide services to licensed charter flights. These new measures, with the exception of the expansion of eligible airports, are similar to policies that were undertaken by the Clinton Administration in 1999, but subsequently curtailed by the Bush Administration in 2003-2004.

Interest on the issue of Cuba travel and remittances is continuing in the 112th Congress, with some legislative initiatives aimed at rolling back the Obama Administration’s actions to ease restrictions on travel and remittances and others designed to further ease or lift such restrictions. The House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, would roll back President Obama’s easing of restrictions on remittances and family travel, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved version of H.R. 2583, the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, would require enforcement of travel regulations as in effect on January 19, 2009. Another initiative, H.R. 2831, has the intent of curbing frequent travel to Cuba by Cubans who have recently emigrated to the United States. In contrast, several initiatives would lift travel restrictions. H.R. 1886 would prohibit restrictions on travel to Cuba. H.R. 1888, in addition to removing some restrictions on the export of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba, would also prohibit Cuba travel restrictions. Two initiatives that would lift the overall Cuba embargo, H.R. 255 and H.R. 1887, also would lift restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. H.R. 380 would prohibit funding to enforce restrictions on travel for educational activities in Cuba. (For further information, see CRS Report R41617, Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress.)



Date of Report: October 12, 2011
Number of Pages: 42
Order Number: RL31139
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress


Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The government of Raúl Castro has implemented limited economic policy changes, including an expansion of self-employment begun in October 2010. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that could increase the private sector. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system, although it has reduced the number of political prisoners over the past several years, including the release of over 125 since 2010 after talks with the Catholic Church.

Since the early 1960s, U.S. policy has consisted largely of isolating Cuba through economic sanctions. A second policy component has consisted of support measures for the Cuban people, including U.S.-sponsored broadcasting and support for human rights activists. In light of Fidel Castro’s departure as head of government, many observers called for a reexamination of policy. Two broad approaches toward Cuba have been at the center of debate. The first is to maintain the dual-track policy of isolating the Cuban government while providing support to the Cuban people. The second is aimed at changing attitudes in the Cuban government and society through increased engagement. Since taking office, the Obama Administration has lifted restrictions on family travel and remittances, moved to reengage Cuba on several bilateral issues, and eased restrictions on other types of purposeful travel and remittances. The Administration has criticized Cuba’s repression of dissidents, but has welcomed the release of political prisoners. The Administration has continued to call for the release of a U.S. government subcontractor, Alan Gross, detained since late 2009, who was sentenced to 15 years in March 2011.

Strong interest on Cuba is continuing in the 112th Congress. The House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 Financial Services appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, would roll back President Obama’s actions easing restrictions on remittances and family travel, while the Senate Appropriations Committee version, S. 1573, does not contain such a provision. Both bills would continue to clarify the definition of “payment of cash in advance” for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2012, while S. 1573 would also prohibit restrictions on direct transfers from a Cuban financial institution to U.S. financial institution in payment for licensed U.S. agricultural and medical exports to Cuba. The House Foreign Affairs Committee version of H.R. 2583, the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, has provision that would require the President to fully enforce all U.S. regulations on travel to Cuba as in effect on January 19, 2009 (under the Bush Administration). H.R. 2831 would make an alien ineligible for adjustment under the Cuban Adjustment Act if the aliens returned to Cuba after admission or parole into the United States and before becoming a U.S. citizen. Several initiatives would ease sanctions: H.R. 255 and H.R. 1887 (overall sanctions); H.R. 833 and H.R. 1888 (agricultural exports); and H.R. 380 and H.R. 1886 (travel). Two initiatives, S. 603 and H.R. 1166, would modify a trademark sanction, while several bills already noted would eliminate that sanction (H.R. 255, H.R. 1887, and H.R. 1888). Three bills, H.R. 372, S. 405, and H.R. 2047, would take different approaches toward Cuba’s offshore oil development: Two bills, S. 476 and H.R. 1317, would discontinue Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba. The Senate Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, S. 1601, would fund Cuba broadcasting and humanitarian and democracy assistance for Cuba.



Date of Report: October 6, 2011
Number of Pages: 72
Order Number: R41617
Price: $29.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.