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US to allow lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba

Washington, Apr 17 (EFE).- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the US government would invoke a measure for the first time that allows lawsuits against foreign companies operating on properties seized from Americans following the 1959 revolution in Cuba.

“For 22+ years, Title III of the LIBERTAD Act was suspended in the hope the Cuban regime would transition to democracy. But the Trump Administration recognizes reality – dictators see appeasement as weakness. President Obama’s attempt to moderate the regime didn’t work,” Pompeo said.

The LIBERTAD Act, or Helms-Burton Act, was enacted in 1996 and Title III of the law allows plaintiffs to sue both foreign and Cuban companies making money off properties confiscated after the 1959 Cuban Revolution in US courts.

Implementation of Title III was suspended every six months by the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump did the same thing in his first two years in office, but in January he suspended Title III for only 45 days and then for only 30 days, a term that expired on Wednesday.

The Cuban government, for its part, reacted to the announcement by labeling it an “attack” on the island.

“I energetically reject the announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo on the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Law. It’s an attack on international law and the sovereignty of Cuba and of third states. Aggressive escalation by the USA against Cuba will fail,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in a Twitter post.

Pompeo said no companies would be granted exemptions from the provision.

“Effective May 2, under Title III of the LIBERTAD Act, U.S. citizens will be able to bring lawsuits against persons trafficking in property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime. After more than 22 years of delays, Americans will finally have a chance at justice,” Pompeo said.

A Department of Justice committee has “certified” 5,913 cases brought by US citizens and firms – including Texaco, Coca-Cola and Colgate-Palmolive – who will be able to resort to Title III to file lawsuits totaling $1.9 billion, attorney Nicolas Gutierrez, the president of the National Association of Cuban Landowners in Miami, told EFE last month.

The top US diplomat said the Trump administration was taking action in light of Cuba’s activities in the hemisphere.

“The Cuban regime has for years exported its oppression to Venezuela. Cuban military, intelligence, and security services keep Maduro in power. This behavior undermines the stability of countries in the Western Hemisphere, and poses a direct threat to U.S. national security,” Pompeo said.

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