Presidential authority to modify economic sanctions against Cuba

On 15 February 2011, Hogan Lovells Partner Stephen Propst issued an independent legal analysis regarding the authority of the President to modify the U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba. The analysis was prepared at the request of the Cuba Study Group and released in connection with a forum on U.S.-Cuba Relations at The Brookings Institute on 15 February 2011. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson provided Keynote remarks at the forum.

Propst's analysis follows President Obama's announcement on 14 January 2011 regarding new measures to significantly loosen the 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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