"Cuba remains a hard-line 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, but there has been disappointment that further reforms have not been forthcoming. The economy was hard hit by storms in 2008, and the global financial crisis has caused further strains. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system, although it did agree in July 2010 to release 52 political prisoners 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 have called for a re-examination of policy with two broad approaches advanced: an approach that would maintain the dual-track policy of isolating the Cuban government while providing support to the Cuban people; and an approach 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; and restarted migration talks. 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, R40193