Helms-Burton: Claims against Companies in Cuba Are Underway

Earlier this week, litigation under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act for “traffick[ing] in stolen properties” begun when plaintiffs started to file claims against US companies legally doing business in Cuba.  Specifically, Carnival Corporation that sails to Havana (under an OFAC license) was named as a defendant in law suits filed in Miami by plaintiffs seeking money damages for Carnival’s use of port areas, docks and real estate alleged to have been formerly owned by plaintiffs’ families and later nationalized by Fidel Castro’s government following the Cuban Revolution.

In 1996, Congress passed the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (“Libertad”) which would allow US citizens who had their property confiscated by the Castro regime to file suit against those who traffic in such properties.  Every president since then has suspended the Act with the hope of developing political dialogue with Cuba.  President Trump ended this suspension, effective May 2, 2019, which means that law suits for damages are now allowed.  The above suits against Carnival are said to be the first ones out of some six thousand claims.   It will be interesting to see where prevailing plaintiffs will collect their damages, as there are no Cuban assets present in the US.  Most likely, will be turning to US and foreign companies operating in Cuba (such as Carnival that operates in the cruise ship sector on the island under an OFAC license) for recovery.

The EU and Canada appear to be of the position that their citizens and their citizens’ actions in Cuba are outside of the US jurisdiction and may pursue a claim in front of the WTO.  Cuba’s position also appears to be one of lack of jurisdiction.


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