Mark P. Sullivan Specialist in Latin American Affairs
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. A party congress held
in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly
alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic model. Few observers expect the
government to ease its tight control over the political system. The
government 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, but short-term detentions and harassment have
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 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 U.S. government
subcontractor Alan Gross, detained in 2009, and sentenced to 15 years in
prison in March 2011.
Strong interest on Cuba is continuing in the 112th Congress.
In the first session, an attempt to roll back the Administration’s easing
of restrictions on travel and remittances was unsuccessful. The provision
had been included in the House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 Financial
Services appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, but was not included in the FY2012 “megabus” appropriations
measure (H.R. 2055, P.L. 112-74). Both H.R. 2434 and the Senate version of the bill,
S. 1573, also would have continued to clarify the definition of “payment of
cash in advance” for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2012, but
the provision was not included in the “megabus” measure.
In the second session, the Senate approved: S.Res. 366 on February 1, 2012,
condemning the Cuban government for the death of democracy activist Wilman
Villar Mendoza; and S.Res. 525 on July 31, 2012, honoring prominent Cuban
dissident Oswaldo Payá who was killed in a car accident. With regard to
Cuba democracy funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the
FY2013 foreign aid appropriations measure, S. 3241, would provide $15 million
as the Administration requested, while the House Appropriations Committee
version of the bill, H.R. 5857, would provide $20 million. With regard to
Cuba broadcasting, S. 3241 would provide $23.4 million ($194,000 less than
the Administration’s request) while H.R. 5857 would provide $28.062
million ($4.468 million more than the request). Since Congress did not complete
action on FY2013 appropriations before the beginning of the fiscal year,
it approved a continuing appropriations resolution in September 2012
(H.J.Res. 117, P.L. 112-175) that continues FY2013 funding through March
27, 2013, at the same rate for projects and activities in FY2012, plus an across-the-board
increase of 0.612%.
Among other initiatives, two would increase sanctions: H.R. 2583 would roll
back the easing of travel and remittance restrictions, and H.R. 2831 would
attempt to curb frequent travel to Cuba by Cubans who have recently
immigrated to the United States. 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. Eight
bills, H.R. 372, S. 405, H.R. 2047, H.R. 3393, H.R. 4310, H.R. 4135, H.R.
6067, and S. 1836, 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.
Date of Report: November 20, 2012
Number of Pages: 97 Order Number: R41617 Price: $29.95
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