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Friday, November 30, 2012

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. 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 increased significantly. 

U.S. Policy 


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. 

Legislative Action 


Strong interest on Cuba is continuing in the 112
th 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
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Monday, November 26, 2012

El Salvador: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations



Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

The United States has maintained a strong interest in developments in El Salvador, a small Central American country with a population of 6 million. During the 1980s, El Salvador was the largest recipient of U.S. aid in Latin America as its government struggled against the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) insurgency during a 12-year civil war. A peace accord negotiated in 1992 brought the war to an end and formally assimilated the FMLN into the political process as a political party. After the peace accords were signed, U.S. involvement shifted toward helping successive Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) governments rebuild democracy and implement market-friendly economic reforms.

In March 2009, Mauricio Funes, a former television journalist and the first FMLN presidential candidate without a guerilla past, defeated Rodrigo Ávila of the conservative ARENA party for a five-year presidential term. His inauguration marked the end of more than 20 years of ARENA rule. President Funes has generally pursued moderate policies that have enabled him to form cross-party coalitions in the National Assembly, but caused periodic friction between him and more radical members of his party.

Now in his fourth year in office, President Funes still has high approval ratings, but faces a number of serious challenges. His political influence has weakened since ARENA replaced the FMLN as the largest party in the legislature and the attention of both parties has turned to the 2014 presidential contest, which President Funes is constitutionally barred from contesting. Nevertheless, Funes successfully mediated a resolution to a months-long standoff between the Salvadoran judiciary and legislature over the composition and power of the Supreme Court in August 2012. In the economic realm, the Funes Administration is seeking to boost investment and growth, which has been inhibited by low productivity, natural disasters, and insecurity in the country. In an attempt to address the country’s high rate of violent crime, the Funes government endorsed a historic—and risky—truce involving the country’s largest gangs. The truce has resulted in a dramatic reduction in homicides since March 2012.

Maintaining close ties with the United States has been a primary foreign policy goal of the Funes Administration. During a March 2011 visit to El Salvador, President Barack Obama and President Funes pledged to strengthen cooperation through the new Partnership for Growth (PFG) initiative. The PFG commits both governments to work closely together to boost competitiveness and reduce insecurity in El Salvador. U.S. bilateral assistance, which totaled $28.2 million in FY2012, as well as aid provided through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), is supporting PFG priorities. The Administration requested an increase in funding—to $41.8 million—for El Salvador for FY2013. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) recently closed out a five-year $461 million program that helped develop El Salvador’s northern border region. MCC has determined that El Salvador is eligible to submit a second compact proposal to develop its southern coastal region. It is as yet unclear how the U.S. Treasury Department’s designation of the MS-13 gang as a major transnational criminal organization whose assets will be targeted may affect bilateral anti-gang efforts. See: CRS Report R41731, Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress, by Peter J. Meyer and Clare Ribando Seelke.



Date of Report: November 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 24
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Friday, November 16, 2012

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. 

Obama Administration Policy 


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. 

Legislative Action in the 112th Congress 


In the first session of the 112th Congress, there were several attempts aimed at rolling back the Obama Administration’s actions easing restrictions on travel and remittances. The House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, would have rolled back President Obama’s easing of restrictions on remittances and family travel; efforts to include the provision in an FY2012 “megabus” appropriations measure, H.R. 2055, were unsuccessful. (Notably in the second session, neither the House nor Senate Appropriations Committee-reported versions of the FY2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations measure, H.R. 6020 and S. 3301 respectively, have provisions regarding U.S. restrictions on travel or remittances to Cuba.) Among other measures, H.R. 2583, the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, would require enforcement of travel regulations as in effect on January 19, 2009, and H.R. 2831 would amend the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 in an attempt to curb frequent travel to Cuba by Cubans who have recently immigrated to the United States.

Several initiatives were also introduced in the 112th Congress that would further ease or lift such restrictions altogether. 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: November 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: RL31139
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

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. 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 increased significantly. 

U.S. Policy 


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. 

Legislative Action 


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 emigrated 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 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 96
Order Number: R41617
Price: $29.95

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