February 2011
Position Papers

Presidential Authority To Modify Economic Sanctions Against Cuba

A legal analysis prepared at the request of the Cuba Study Group and released in connection with a forum on U.S.-Cuba Relations at The Brookings Institution, 15 February 2011.

On January 14, 2011, President Obama announced measures to significantly loosen U.S. sanctions against Cuba, including broad new authorizations for travel and non-family remittances to support private economic activity in Cuba. These changes were made without prior Congressional approval and are only the latest in a string of modifications to the Cuba sanctions that have been implemented solely under the President’s executive authority. Along with the political and policy debates over the President’s actions, there will undoubtedly be some who question whether the President had sufficient legal authority to make these changes. This paper reviews the sources of the President’s authority to modify the Cuba sanctions and concludes that executive authority is broad enough to support not only the changes announced to date, but also a range of additional measures to ease restrictions.

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