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GAO report indicates Cuba sanctions are difficult to ease

A U.S. president has limited ways to ease the embargo on Cuba — unless he or she certifies that Havana is moving toward democracy or Congress overturns U.S. laws on the sanctions, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

"The bottom line is that the president and Congress have done about as much as they can for now" to ease the sanctions, said a U.S. government official who studied the report. "So, unless Cuba takes steps [toward democracy] the ball is in Congress' court."

The report comes amid a debate between supporters of the sanctions, who argue that current laws make it all but impossible to change them, and sanctions opponents who argue the president has the power to significantly ease the embargo.

Some have argued, for example, that President Barack Obama could allow all Americans to travel to Cuba by simply allowing tourism under the "general licenses" that do not require specific reasons for traveling to Cuba.

The GAO report, which was released Thursday, was requested by three supporters of easing the Cuba sanctions: Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. ; Rep. Jeff Flake, R.-Ariz, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

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