Cuba: It’s all about the regs

The effectiveness and fate of President Barack Obama's December 17, 2014, executive actions to alter elements of the U.S. embargo on Cuba will ultimately depend on how the regulations are written and interpreted in the Treasury and Commerce departments. Let's hope the regulators in those departments follow the spirit of the President's actions.


  • Christopher Sabatini

    Dr. Christopher Sabatini, is a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, and was formerly a lecturer in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Chris is also on the advisory boards of Harvard University’s LASPAU, the Advisory Committee for Human Rights Watch's Americas Division, and of the Inter-American Foundation. He is also an HFX Fellow at the Halifax International Security Forum. He is a frequent contributor to policy journals and newspapers and appears in the media and on panels on issues related to Latin America and foreign policy. Chris has testified multiple times before the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2015, Chris founded and directed a new research non-profit, Global Americas and edited its news and opinion website. From 2005 to 2014 Chris was senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the founder and editor-in-chief of the hemispheric policy magazine Americas Quarterly (AQ). At the AS/COA, Dr. Sabatini chaired the organization’s rule of law and Cuba working groups. Prior to that, he was director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy, and a diplomacy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, working at the US Agency for International Development’s Center for Democracy and Governance. He provides regular interviews for major media outlets, and has a PhD in Government from the University of Virginia.

Just about the time President Barack Obama and his team were at the end of their secret negotiations with the Cuban government that would lead to historic changes to the half-century old U.S. embargo, the insipid song “It’s All About that Bass” seemed to be everywhere — on the radio, piped into stores, even on the TV show “The Voice.” An ear-worm of a song, my hope is that the White House officials who crafted the executive actions announced on December 17th have a slightly altered version of it ringing in their heads now as they sit down to implement them: “It’s all about the regs.”

The success of the President’s plan to adapt a policy that, for over five decades, has failed to achieve its goals of protecting human rights and forcing the collapse of the famously autocratic Castro brothers’ (Fidel and Raúl) regime hinges on the regulations developed in the bowels of the Commerce and Treasury Departments.

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