"Since the early 1960s, U.S. policy toward Cuba under Fidel Castro has consisted largely of isolating the communist nation through comprehensive economic sanctions, which have been significantly tightened by the Bush Administration, including restrictions on travel, private humanitarian assistance, and payment terms for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. A second component of U.S. policy has consisted of support measures for the Cuban people, including private humanitarian donations and U.S.-sponsored radio and television broadcasting to Cuba. As in past years, the main issue for U.S. policy toward Cuba in the 110th Congress will be how to best support political and economic change in one of the world's remaining few communist nations. Unlike past years, however, Congress is now examining policy toward Cuba in the context of Fidel Castro's temporary, and potentially permanent, departure from the political scene because of health conditions, which could foster a re-examination of U.S. policy. Although there has been broad agreement in Congress on the overall objective of U.S. policy toward Cuba -to help bring democracy and respect for human rights to the island - there have been several schools of thought on how best to achieve that objective. Some advocate maximum pressure on the Cuban government until reforms are enacted; others argue for lifting some sanctions that they believe are hurting the Cuban people, or as part of a strategy of lifting sanctions incrementally in response to positive changes in Cuba. Still others call for a swift normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32730