Cuba: U.S. Sanctions Policy After the Embargo

By Peter Harrell




Since US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a historic thaw in US-Cuban relations in December 2014, both the US and Cuban governments have undertaken a series of steps to normalize diplomatic relations and to expand economic ties that had been curtailed since the early 1960s. In a new report from the Center on Global Energy Policy, author Peter Harrell, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, argues that Congress needs to enact new legislation concerning US sanctions on Cuba that would:


  • Authorize the president to suspend and terminate all elements of existing US sanctions on Cuba upon the United States and Cuba entering into a final agreement to settle US claims
  • Establish a new sanctions regime that would levy targeted sanctions against specific Cuban officials and government agencies and instrumentalities involved in repression and human rights abuses
  • Continue to bar sales of US goods to the Cuban military and security services and restrict US companies from investing in or doing business with the Cuban military or security services
  • Establish a new, straightforward “reporting requirement” requiring that US companies engaging in large-scale investments in Cuba provide a public annual report about their corporate social responsibility policies in Cuba
  • Authorize the president to terminate the embargo if a new democratic government comes to power in Cuba and also include a five-year sunset provision on all US sanctions on Cuba


The report indicates that reforms to implement modernized US sanctions on Cuba have the potential to enable additional positive social and economic changes in Cuba, provide greater economic benefits to both countries, bring sanctions into better alignment with current US interests, and harmonize sanctions on Cuba with sanctions the United States imposes on most other countries subject to US sanctions.