President Obama’s announcement of a historic reconciliation with Cuba contained a vexing proviso that he does not have authority to lift the embargo because it is codified in legislation by Congress. While the embargo was first imposed in the early 1960s under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act, Congress enacted additional laws over the years that strengthened the embargo on Cuba, including the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (which codified the embargo regulations and is also known as the Helms-Burton Act), and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
Through these various acts, Congress has imposed sanctions on Cuba in a variety of ways, including restrictions on trade, foreign aid, and support from the international financial institutions. The Helms-Burton Act in particular has caused friction with American allies and and been the source rancor in the Western hemisphere for its wide scope. In essence, it requires any non-US companies or individuals to choose between doing business with Cuba or with the US.
This report, prepared by the US Congressional Research Service, provides information on legislative provisions restricting relations with Cuba for both US and non-US entities. It lists the various provisions of law comprising economic sanctions on Cuba, including key laws that are the statutory basis of the embargo, and provides information on the authority to lift or waive