Mark P. Sullivan - Specialist in Latin American Affairs
January 29, 2014
Congressional Research Service
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. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a second five-year term as president (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52- year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has implemented a number of gradual economic policy changes over the past several years, 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, however, expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system. While the government reduced the number of political prisoners in 2010-2011, the number increased in 2012; moreover, short-term detentions and harassment have increased significantly.
Over the years, Congress has played an active role in shaping policy toward Cuba, including the enactment of legislation strengthening and at times easing various U.S. economic sanctions. While 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. government-sponsored broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí) and support for human rights and democracy projects. The Obama Administration has continued this similar dual-track approach. While the Administration has lifted all restrictions on family travel and remittances, eased restrictions on other types of purposeful travel, and moved to reengage Cuba on several bilateral issues, it has also maintained most U.S. economic sanctions in place. On human rights, the Administration welcomed the release of many political prisoners in 2010 and 2011, but it has also criticized Cuba’s continued harsh repression of political dissidents through thousands of shortterm detentions and targeted violence. 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 in Cuba is continuing in the 113th Congress with attention focused on economic and political developments, especially the human rights situation, and U.S. policy toward the island nation, including sanctions. The continued imprisonment of Alan Gross remains a key concern for many Members. In March 2013, Congress completed action on full-year FY2013 appropriations with the approval of H.R. 933 (P.L. 113-6), which continues to provide funding for Cuba democracy and human rights projects and Cuba broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).
In July 2013, the Appropriations Committees reported out their versions of the FY2014 State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations measure. The House version, H.R. 2855 (H.Rept. 113-185), would have provided that $20 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) ($5 million more than the Administration’s request) be transferred to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) “to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba.” The Senate version, S. 1372 (S.Rept. 113-81), would have provided that ESF appropriated for Cuba only be made available “for humanitarian assistance and to support the Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress
Congressional Research Service
development of private business.” Ultimately in the FY2014 omnibus appropriations measure, H.R. 3547 (P.L. 113-76) approved in January 2014, Congress provided up to $17.5 million in ESF for programs and activities in Cuba and stipulated that no ESF appropriated under the Act may be obligated by the U.S. Agency for International Development for any new programs or activities in Cuba. The joint explanatory statement to the bill stated that of the $17.5 million, not less than $7.5 million shall be provided directly to NED, and not more than $10 million shall be administered by the State Department. With regard to funding for Cuba broadcasting in FY2014, H.R. 2855 would have provided $28.266 million while S. 1372 would have provided $23.804 million, the same amount as the Administration’s request. In the end, the FY2014 omnibus measure, P.L. 113-76, provided $27.043 million.
With regard to Cuba sanctions, both the House and Senate versions of the FY2014 Financial Services and General Government appropriations measure, H.R. 2786 and S. 1371, had different provisions that would have tightened and eased travel restrictions respectively, but none of these provisions were included in the FY2014 omnibus appropriations measure (P.L. 113-76). H.R. 2786 (H.Rept. 113-172) would have prohibited FY2014 funding used “to approve, license, facilitate, authorize, or otherwise allow” people-to-people travel to Cuba, which the Obama Administration authorized in 2011. In contrast, S. 1371 (S.Rept. 113-80) would have expanded the current general license for professional research and meetings in Cuba to allow U.S. groups to sponsor and organize conferences in Cuba, but only if specifically related to disaster prevention, emergency preparedness, and natural resource protection.
Several other initiatives on Cuba have been introduced in the 113th Congress. Several would lift or ease U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba: H.R. 214 and H.R. 872 (overall embargo); H.R. 871 (travel); and H.R. 873 (travel and agricultural exports). H.R. 215 would allow Cubans to play organized professional baseball in the United States. H.R. 1917 would lift the embargo and extend nondiscriminatory trade treatment to the products of Cuba after Cuba releases Alan Gross from prison. Identical initiatives, H.R. 778/S. 647 would modify a 1998 trademark sanction; in contrast, H.R. 214, H.R. 872, H.R. 873, and H.R. 1917 each have a provision that would repeal the sanction. H.Res. 121 would honor the work of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. H.Res. 262 would call for the immediate extradition or rendering of all U.S. fugitives from justices in Cuba.
Table of Contents
Recent Developments 1
Cuba’s Political and Economic Situation 4
Brief Historical Background 4
Political Conditions 5
Human Rights Conditions 7
Economic Conditions and Reform Efforts 12
Cuba’s Foreign Relations 16
North Korean Ship Incident 19
U.S. Policy toward 22
Background on U.S.-Cuban Relations 22
Clinton Administration’s Easing of Sanctions 23
Bush Administration’s Tightening of Sanctions 23
Obama Administration Policy 24
Debate on the Direction of U.S. Policy 27
Issues in U.S.-Cuban Relations 28
U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances 28
U.S. Agricultural Exports and Sanctions 31
Trademark Sanction 33
U.S. Funding to Support Democracy and Human Rights 35
Oversight of U.S. Democracy Assistance to Cuba 39
Imprisonment of USAID Subcontractor since December 2009 40
Radio and TV Marti 42
Funding for Cuba Broadcasting 43
Oversight of Radio and TV Martí 44
Terrorism Issues 46
Migration Issues 49
Cuba Alters Its Policy Regarding Exit Permits 52
Anti-Drug Cooperation 53
Cuba’s Offshore Oil Development . 54
Cuban Spies 58
Cuban Five 59
Legislative Initiatives in the 113th Congress 60
Enacted Measures 60
Additional Measures 61