"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 implemented limited economic policy changes in 2008 and 2009, and in September 2010 began a significant series of reforms to reduce the public sector and increase private enterprise. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system, although it has reduced the number of political prisoners over the past several years, including the release of more than 50 since July 2010 after talks with the Cuban Catholic Church. 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 toward Cuba have been at the center of debate. The first would 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. The Obama Administration has lifted restrictions on family travel and remittances; eased restrictions on telecommunications links with Cuba; restarted semi-annual migration talks; and recently announced further easing of restrictions on educational and religious travel and non-family remittances. The Administration has criticized the government's repression of dissidents, but it welcomed Cuba's July 2010 announcement of a prisoner release as a positive sign. The Administration also has called for the release of a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned since December 2009."
CRS Report for Congress, R41617