"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 has implemented limited economic policy changes, including an expansion of self-employment begun in October 2010. A party congress held in April laid out numerous economic goals that could increase the private sector. 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 125 since mid-2010 after talks with the Catholic Church. […] Strong interest on Cuba is continuing in the 112th Congress, focused on a number of issues, including U.S. sanctions, the human rights situation, Cuba's imprisonment of a U.S. government subcontractor, the status of Cuba's economic reforms and its offshore oil development, and U.S. democracy programs. The House Appropriations Committee-approved version of the FY2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill, H.R. 2434, would (in Section 901) roll back President Obama's actions easing restrictions on remittances and family travel and (in Section 618) continue to clarify the definition of 'payment of cash in advance' for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba during FY2012. (P.L. 112-10, enacted in April 2011, continued the 'payment of cash in advance' provision for FY2011.) Several introduced bills would ease sanctions: H.R. 255 and H.R. 1887 (overall sanctions); H.R. 833 and H.R. 1888 (agricultural exports); and H.R. 380 and H.R. 1886 (travel)."
CRS Report for Congress, R41617