Title III of the Helms-Burton Act allows people who lost property when the communists took over Cuba in 1959 to sue companies which are currently benefitting from the property. The law was passed in 1996 but had been waived repeatedly every year until the Trump administration decided that would change. Since last month, people with a legitimate claim can now sue US companies that are using their land. NBC reports:
Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Jorge Suárez-Múrias, 62, says he had always hoped that his parents would one day return to the properties in Cuba that were seized from them after Fidel Castro rose to power in the 1959 revolution…
Though Suárez-Múrias’ father, a former political prisoner in Cuba, passed away two years ago, he still holds out hope that his mother, Victoria, now 87 and in good health, could go back. “I hope my father is seeing me from up above, fighting. I hope his dream is fulfilled through me.”
The number of lawsuits filed is expected to be fairly low because of all the hurdles someone has to clear to make a claim under the law. Still, it’s a dramatic change from what was happening under the previous administration:
During the Obama administration’s thawing of relations with Cuba, negotiating the 5,913 claims held by U.S. companies and individuals and certified by the Justice Department was a thorny issue. The claims are worth an estimated $8 billion, but Cuba countered by saying the U.S. had strangled Cuba’s economy with the embargo and owed them $181 billion in damages. The issue was not settled during Obama’s presidency and the Trump administration never took up the issue…
The Trump administration said they allowed Title III to go into effect because of Cuba’s role in Venezuela. The U.S. has accused Cuban troops of propping up embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, while Cuba says the majority of its 22,000 personnel in Venezuela are health care professionals.
Among those health care professionals are spies who collect information on people through a network of clinics and then collaborate with the Maduro regime. Maduro has been paying for the health/security service with oil but that has been getting more difficult thanks to US sanctions put in place nearly two months ago.
The U.S. sanctioned four companies it says transport much of the 50,000 barrels of oil that Venezuela provides to Cuba each day in an effort to punish the island nation for its support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The companies and nine vessels they own account for perhaps half of the oil that Venezuela sends to Cuba in exchange for the social, intelligence and strategic support Havana provides Maduro, according to a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity. The U.S. is determined to sever the U.S.-Cuba economic relationship, the official said.
The hope is that cutting of Cuba’s oil would cause it to pull back in Venezuela and that would make it harder for Maduro to maintain control of the country. It’s too early to tell if it’s working. Venezuela is reportedly using various means to get around the sanctions. In any case, isolating the communist countries and making them pay a price for stealing property seems like a better plan that placating them.