White House to Allow US Citizens to Sue Over Property Confiscated in Cuba Decades Ago
WASHINGTON — Ending more than 20 years of practice, the Trump administration will allow U.S. citizens to sue over property confiscated from them in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, with potential defendants including the Cuban government and major European and Canadian companies.
President Donald Trump will announce the decision on Wednesday, a senior administration official said Tuesday, and his national security adviser, John Bolton, will provide details in a speech in Miami to survivors of the failed CIA attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
The administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan, said the move is intended to increase pressure on Cuba and its communist-led government. Among other grievances, the White House accuses Cuba of propping up Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whom the administration is attempting to oust.
Allowing the lawsuits against foreign companies to proceed in U.S. courts could unleash years of legal wrangling with limited chances of financial payoffs for the plaintiffs, experts said.
Until now, U.S. presidents issued waivers that suspended the lawsuit provision of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, a bill that strengthened the U.S. embargo against Havana.
Trump, who is eager to reverse President Barack Obama’s overtures to Cuba, will discontinue the waivers and allow lawsuits to be filed in U.S. courts.
The Justice Department has determined that 5,913 claimants have potential cases. The value of those claims, with interest, is estimated at $8.5 billion.
“This authorizes the lawsuits, but it doesn’t mean money is going to flow overnight,” the administration official said, adding that it “sends a powerful signal.”
Some plaintiffs may decide suing is too expensive, and several claims were previously settled privately.
Trump’s goal is to discourage companies from doing business with and investing in Cuba. Scores of European, Canadian, Israeli and Asian companies work on the island, owning or running hotels, ports, utilities, transportation and other services. They include Melia, Mitsubishi, Nestle and similar conglomerates.
Some of the businesses may have bought or leased property that the government of the late Fidel Castro seized in the wake of the revolution that brought him to power, as he nationalized oil refineries and confiscated homes and lands belonging to Cubans who fled leftist rule.
In March, the Trump administration allowed a limited number of lawsuits to be filed against Cuban military officials who had confiscated American-owned property.
The new step significantly expands the pool of potential defendants. Trump will also announce measures to make it easier to deny or revoke visas from people or companies using confiscated property.
Anticipating Trump’s move, the European Union warned the administration it will lodge a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization if European interests in Cuba are harmed.
The EU will “use all means at its disposal, including in cooperation with other international partners, to protect its interests,” the group’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo last week.
The administration official accused the companies in Cuba of participating in “20 years of profiting in property stolen from American citizens.”
Bolton’s speech in Miami, in addition to discussing the new avenues of legal redress, is expected to detail another batch of sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In a similar venue last year, Bolton designated the three leftist-ruled governments as a “troika of tyranny.”
©2019 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
(This is the fourth and final part of a four-part series. The first three parts can be read here, here and here.) The First Amendment Prevails The Supreme Court’s decision in the Pentagon Papers case, officially, New York Times Co. v. United States, affirmed historical precedents... Read More
(This is the third part of a four-part series. The first and second installments can be read here and here.) White House Makes Its Move Ultimately, the decision to seek prior restraint -- an injunction prohibiting The Times from publishing future articles -- was made by... Read More
The Biden Administration announced Monday it will interpret federal non-discrimination provisions as protecting the LGBTQ community against discrimination in health care. The move, which was announced through the Department of Health and Human Services, means the Office for Civil Rights will interpret and enforce Section 1557... Read More
(This is the second part of a four-part series. The first installment can be read here.) To Publish or Not to Publish Upon his return to Washington, Sheehan and an editor booked a room at the Jefferson Hotel, where they spent weeks reading and summarizing the... Read More
WASHINGTON — While much has been studied about President Biden’s first 100 days in office, most of that analysis has focused on how the administration’s actions impact American citizens or relationships with the world’s other great powers, but many wonder about how early actions will affect... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to the turn the page on the Trump years, the Biden White House is launching an effort to unearth past problems with the politicization of science within government and to tighten scientific integrity rules for the future. A new 46-person federal scientific... Read More