Future scenarios for US-Cuba relations

09-02-2015

On 17 December 2014, US President, Barack Obama, announced the start of a new phase in US-Cuba relations. 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. This normalisation process will most probably be constrained by the still strong opposition from Congress. The powers and discretion of the President to modify the embargo rules are limited by legislation dating back to the 1990s. Radical changes in relations between the two countries will therefore be dependent on Congress's willingness to amend or completely revoke embargo legislation. Opposition to major changes in the embargo rules is still strong in Congress, as political reforms in Cuba have lagged behind economic policy changes. This is likely to lead to a slower and more prudent process for dismantling the embargo. The maintenance of the main embargo legislation means that some of the rules with extraterritorial implications will remain in place. In particular, the rules from the 1996 Helms Burton Act and Section 211 of the 1998 Omnibus Appropriations Act that the EU had challenged in the past will, for the moment, remain in place.

On 17 December 2014, US President, Barack Obama, announced the start of a new phase in US-Cuba relations. 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. This normalisation process will most probably be constrained by the still strong opposition from Congress. The powers and discretion of the President to modify the embargo rules are limited by legislation dating back to the 1990s. Radical changes in relations between the two countries will therefore be dependent on Congress's willingness to amend or completely revoke embargo legislation. Opposition to major changes in the embargo rules is still strong in Congress, as political reforms in Cuba have lagged behind economic policy changes. This is likely to lead to a slower and more prudent process for dismantling the embargo. The maintenance of the main embargo legislation means that some of the rules with extraterritorial implications will remain in place. In particular, the rules from the 1996 Helms Burton Act and Section 211 of the 1998 Omnibus Appropriations Act that the EU had challenged in the past will, for the moment, remain in place.