President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Monday, April 15, 2019, after visiting Minnesota. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Trump to allow lawsuits over US properties seized in Cuba

The move marks a change in more than two decades of U.S. policy on Cuba

Stepping up pressure on Cuba, the Trump administration will allow lawsuits against foreign companies doing business in properties seized from Americans after the island’s 1959 revolution, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

The move marks a change in more than two decades of U.S. policy on Cuba.

President Donald Trump has been taking steps to isolate embattled Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, who is holding power with help from other countries, including Cuba, China and Russia. The new policy against Havana could deal a severe blow to Cuba’s efforts to draw foreign investment, and spawn international trade disputes between the U.S. and Europe.

The administration official who provided details of the shift spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement by the State Department.

After that announcement, national security adviser John Bolton is expected to discuss the new policy during a speech Wednesday in Miami, which is home to thousands of exiles and immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

READ MORE: Trump keeps attacking as redacted Russia report due Thursday

The speech at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association is to be delivered on the 58th anniversary of the United States’ failed 1961 invasion of the island, an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.

Johana Tablada, Cuba’s deputy director of U.S. affairs, said on Twitter: “Before they try to euphorically ride a wave of wickedness and lies, they should take a dose of reality. The world has told John Bolton and the U.S. government to eliminate the criminal blockade against Cuba and the Helms-Burton Act.”

The 1996 act gave Americans the right to sue the mostly European companies that operate out of hotels, tobacco factories, distilleries and other properties that Cuba nationalized after Fidel Castro took power. The act even allows lawsuits by Cubans who became U.S. citizens years after their properties were taken.

Canada, France, Spain, Great Britain and other countries with large investments in Cuba have ferociously protested the law and threatened to sue in the World Trade Organization if Washington tries to interfere with the business ties between Cuba and another sovereign nation. U.S. airlines and cruise lines that bring hundreds of thousands of travellers to Cuba each year appear to be exempted.

Every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has suspended the key clause to avoid those trade clashes and a potential mass of lawsuits that would prevent any future settlement with Cuba over nationalized properties. Cuba has said it is willing to reimburse the owners of confiscated properties, but only if the communist government is also reimbursed for billions of dollars in damages generated by the six-decade U.S. trade embargo.

The announcement comes at a moment of severe economic weakness for Cuba, which is struggling to find enough cash to import basic food and other supplies following a drop in aid from Venezuela, and a string of bad years in other key economic sectors.

Foreign investment in Cuba increased slightly in recent years, but it remains far below the levels needed to recapitalize the island’s dilapidated, often collapsing infrastructure. The Trump administration’s decision is not expected to drive out major foreign players like Pernod-Ricard of France, which makes Havana Club rum, or Spanish hotel chains Melia or Iberostar, but it could prove a major obstacle to new investment from foreign companies.

“It will harm prospective investment in Cuba. It will not cause people who are invested in Cuba already to pull out now,” said Phil Peters, director of the Arlington, Virginia-based Cuba Research Center, who advocated for closer relations with Cuba and has consulted for U.S. companies looking to invest.

READ MORE: Trump says Boeing should fix, then re-brand Max 8 jets

Peters said he also believed the new measure could hurt the Trump administration’s effort to force Maduro from power with help from allies like Spain.

“There are plenty of countries that are interested in helping Venezuela find a soft landing after Maduro, but they are not interested in waging an economic war on Cuba,” Peters said.

The U.S. official said the administration also plans to start enforcing the section of the act that allows the U.S. to deny entry visas to Cubans and citizens of other countries involved in trafficking in the confiscated property.

Deb Riechmann And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Chilliwack hopes to re-start public consultation

A new survey asks residents if they’re ready to discuss projects not related to COVID-19

UPDATE: Missing girl in Chilliwack’s Promontory neighborhood found

A 13-year-old child was missing from early Monday morning to 4:30 in the afternoon

Missing Richmond man last seen in Chilliwack

Shawn Johnson last seen on June 30 on Main Street

Double homicide investigation leads Vancouver police to Eagle Landing

A VPD forensics unit was in Chilliwack Saturday collecting evidence connected to East Van murders

Abbotsford man wins $1 million in Lotto 6/49 draw

Kenneth Giffen wins prize after deciding to stop in Agassiz gas station after fishing trip

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

COVID-19 exposure on Vancouver flight

The Air Canada 8421 flight travelled from Kelowna to Vancouver on July 6

VIDEO: Former Abbotsford resident giving away $1,000

Langley native Alex Johnson creates elaborate treasure hunt to give away cash

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

UPDATE: Abbotsford shooting victim was alleged ‘crime boss,’ according to court documents

Jazzy Sran, 43, was believed to have been smuggling cocaine across the border

Most Read