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.

Just Posted

Tofino picks two frontrunners for pot shop permits

Retail cannabis in Tofino beginning to shake out as council continues to grind through process.

10th annual Tofino Saltwater Classic embraces catch and release format for Chinook prizes

Fundraising fishing derby has raised over $500,000 for community initiatives since its inception.

Courtenay-Alberni Greens name Sean Wood as federal candidate

Nomination meeting took place June 15 at Hupacasath Hall in Port Alberni

Musings from surfers about surfboards

“I tried to make it so it was easy to get into waves and not too floaty so you could duck dive it.”

Tla-o-qui-aht board fish farms to obtain video footage of pens

Fish farms were boarded under the authority of the Tla-o-qui-aht Hereditary Chief Ray Seitcher.

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read