“President Donald Trump administration ordered Wednesday the lifting of the suspension of Helm-Burton law’s Titles III and IV, which would allow filing lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba. The U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton will refer to the application of those norms during a meeting with former mercenaries who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961.

Through Title III, U.S. citizens could sue in their country’s courts those who “traffic” with institutions in Cuba that were nationalized after Jan. 1, 1959, when the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro defeated the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Since President Bill Clinton’s administration (1993-2001), U.S. has avoided the implementation of Title III by issuing “temporary” six-month suspensions. This has been the usual practice because the full implementation of the Helm-Burton law would imply massive damages not only for Cuba but also for the companies from the U.S, the European Union (EU) and Canada.

The Trump administration, however, announced that, as of March 19, it would allow the filling of lawsuits against more than 200 Cuban companies included in a unilateral list of sanctions. Lawyer Robert Muse told Prensa Latina that everything indicates that President Trump does seek to implement Title III against foreign companies operating in Cuba. He added that the U.S. government could also apply Title IV, which allows the U.S. to deny visas to foreign businessmen investing in nationalized properties in Cuba. Muse also considers that Bolton could push for a tougher restriction on travel by U.S. citizens to the island through the imposition of spending limits; or the inclusion of Cuba in the Department of State’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Reacting to President Trump’s threats, the European Commission (EC) said Wednesday that it is “prepared” to protect the interests of EU companies in Cuba. “The EU is prepared to protect European interests, including European investments and economic activities of individuals and entities in their relations with Cuba, if they were to be affected,” Alexander Winterstein, the EU Commission spokesman, said and pointed out that the EU strongly opposes the “extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures which are contrary to international law.” The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini also warned that the bloc could sue the U.S. before the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Washington implemented those measures.

In fact, the EU already sued the U.S. before the WTO two decades ago, when the Helms-Burton law was passed but withdrew its complaint once the White House agreed to suspend Title III. The U.S. measures against Cuba will come into force as of May 2, when the last suspension of Title III expires. “Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.”

What does Title III say?

“In 1996, former U.S. president Bill Clinton approved the Helms Burton Act under the idea that the blockade against Cuba had an extra-territorial scope and was not limited just to the island. The Title III allows U.S. citizens, including Cubans who acquired their nationality, to file lawsuits against foreign companies linked to properties nationalized after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but it has never been activated. President Trump announced in March the U.S. would begin to enforce the measure, May 2.”


“U.S. oil and gas company, Exxon Mobil Corp., has filed a federal suit against two Cuban companies after the waiver on Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act was officially lifted by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 2. Exxon Mobil accuses the Cuban entities of “unlawful trafficking in Plaintiff’s confiscated property in violation of Title III of the… Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996,” according to the details of the complaint that was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The multinational’s suit specifically charges that two Cuban companies, Corporacion Cimex S.A. and Union Cuba-Petroleo, used property that was under the ownership of an Exxon predecessor company before the Fidel Castro-led Cuban Revolution.

Cimex has real estate, financial services and logistics operations, according to its website. While, Union Cuba-Petroleo (Cupet) is a state-owned oil company which operates refineries. Cimex is currently on the U.S. State Department’s restricted list as well as blacklisted, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The company, which has been accused of sovereignty violation and climate change abuses on several occasions, hopes to recover US$280 million in the lawsuit against the Latin American country, an Exxon spokesman disclosed. “This filing is significant. This is the fifth-largest company in the world using Title III of the Libertad Act to sue a company owned by the government of Cuba,” John Kavulich, president of U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, remarked. “This provides comfort for other large claimants to sue, will increase fear by companies in other countries from engagement with Cuba due to the reach of Exxon Mobil and is consistent with Exxon Mobil efforts to recover assets in Venezuela and defend themselves in other countries.”

Exxon Mobil was formed as one of the almost three dozen companies that were created when John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was ordered – by U.S. supreme court – to dismantle after violating federal anti-trust laws. The U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission claims that Standard Oil suffered a loss of more than US$71.6 million due to the Revolution. Exxon is the largest U.S. oil producer.

Two Cuban-American individuals have also used the reinforced policies of Title III to sue cruise operator Carnival Corp. Cuba denounced the suits and added that Title III violates international law. Canada and the European Union as well as several other countries have rejected the United States’s actions and pointed out that Washington has no jurisdiction over their citizens’ activity in Cuba. The groups have also threatened to put the matter before the World Trade Organization and pursue other actions to block the United States.”



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