Thursday, February 21, 2019

 US State Department Reviewing Application of  

      Title III Helms-Burton Act

On January 16, 2019, the U.S. State Department announced a decision to suspend for only 45 days the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, "to conduct a careful review ... in light of U.S. national interests and efforts to accelerate a transition to democracy in Cuba, and to include such elements as the regime's brutal oppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms and its inexcusable support for the increasingly authoritarian and corrupt regimes of Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The government of President Donald Trump threatens to take a new step that would dangerously reinforce the blockade against Cuba, flagrantly violate international law, and directly attack the sovereignty and interests of third countries.
Cuba rejects that threat in the strongest, strongest and most categorical manner.  It assumes it as a hostile act of extreme arrogance and irresponsibility, while repudiating the disrespectful and slanderous language of the State Department's public message.
The Helms-Burton Act went into effect in 1996. It was conceived to codify and harden the policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade officially imposed in 1962, with the objective of subverting and overthrowing the government of Cuba and imposing a regime to the liking of the government of the United States.
It consists of four titles and has been applied since its promulgation. It is characterized by its extreme extraterritorial scope, for violating the norms and principles of International Law, for contravening the rules of trade and international economic relations and for being harmful to the sovereignty of other States, mainly by the application of its provisions against companies and persons established in their territory.
It has been rejected by the international community almost unanimously in the United Nations, in specialized international organizations and in regional organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the African Union. Several countries have national laws to deal with the extraterritorial effects of this law.
Among the central objectives of the Helms-Burton Act has been to hinder Cuba's economic, commercial and financial relations with third countries and to affect its ability to attract direct foreign capital investment for its development. Titles III and IV of the law are expressly devoted to this purpose.
Title III authorizes U.S. nationals to file lawsuits before U.S. courts against any foreigner who "traffics" in U.S. property that was nationalized in Cuba in the 1960s, in a legitimate process, as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, carried out by the Cuban government in full compliance with national law and international law.
Among the most significant aberrations, this title extends this authorization to owners who were not U.S. citizens at the time of the nationalizations and whose alleged properties no one has certified.
By virtue of the provisions of the Helms-Burton Act itself, all U.S. Presidents since 1996, including Trump in 2017 and 2018, have made consecutive use of the executive power to suspend the application of Title III every six months in order to recognize that it consists of the grossest and most unacceptable aspect of this against international law and the sovereignty of other states. Also because it understands that its application would cause insurmountable obstacles to any prospect of settlement of claims and compensation to legitimate U.S. owners.
For its part, the Provincial People's Court of Havana, on November 2, 1999, declared the Lawsuit against the Government of the United States of America for Human Damages Waived and sanctioned it to repair and compensate the Cuban people in the amount of $181.1 billion dollars and, on May 5, 2000, also for Economic Damages caused to Cuba and sentenced it in the amount of $121 billion dollars.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reiterated Cuba's willingness to find a solution to mutual claims and compensation.
This decision, which the U.S. government threatens to adopt, would imply that, contrary to international law and the practice of international relations, foreign individuals and entities with legitimate business in Cuba may be faced with the threat of facing unfounded and illegitimate claims before U.S. courts. The politically motivated and venal conduct of some Florida courts, frequently used as a weapon against Cuba, is well known.
For our people, it means facing once again, in a firm, conscious and forceful manner, the determination of U.S. imperialism to subdue the United States.

Translated from Granma with
Elizabeth Hill

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