Helms-Burton was passed in 1996 as legislation, signed by President Clinton, that further tightens the economic blockade on Cuba, but Title III, which allows lawsuits to be filed in federal courts over properties nationalized by the revolutionary government, was suspended every six months by all the administrations of that country from then until recently, when President Donald Trump began to threaten and give deadlines for its application.
In part from the McClatchy: The Trump administration will postpone its decision on whether to fully implement the Helms-Burton Act for two weeks. The move actually increases pressure on companies — primarily from Spain, Canada and the United States — because they could potentially be sued for “trafficking” in properties confiscated by the Cuban government as much as 60 years ago.
The decision, announced Wednesday, comes amid intense criticism of the government of Cuba for its role in supporting Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
In a notice sent to Congress, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “continues to examine human rights conditions in Cuba, including ongoing repression of the rights of the Cuban people to free speech, free expression and free assembly.” He added that the State Department “is also monitoring Cuba’s continued military, security, and intelligence support” to Maduro, “who is responsible for repression, violence, and a man-made humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.”
The subject of fully implementing Helms-Burton began to make its rounds on social media earlier this week.
“The regime in #Cuba is the single biggest reason why the Maduro regime is still able to repress, jail, torture and kill the people of Venezuela,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio posted on Twitter on Monday. Then he added the hashtag “#HelmsBurton,” without giving more details.
National Security Adviser John Bolton, who also tweeted on Monday, posted: “The U.S. will hold Cuba accountable for its subversion of democracy in Venezuela and direct hand in Maduro’s ongoing repression of the Venezuelan people.”
President Donald Trump broke with the practice from previous administrations of suspending the Title III provision of the Helms-Burton Act every six months, which allows Americans to file lawsuits in U.S. courts to seek compensation for property that was confiscated by the Cuban government after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. The Helms-Burton Act codified the Cuban embargo into law.
Since Jan. 16, when it issued a 45-day waiver, the administration has been shortening the suspension period of the provision, signaling that is willing to tighten the embargo.
In early March, the administration partially implemented the provision to allow lawsuits against some 200 Cuban companies with ties to the military that now control properties confiscated by the Cuban government. But it postponed for a month a decision on whether to allow foreign companies on the island to be sued, too, amidst negotiations to seek international support to oust Maduro.
Spain, Canada and France would be among the countries most affected by a full implementation of Title III, as they have investments in tourism and mining on the island. The routine six-month suspension of this provision was the response to the complaints of U.S. allies, which protested the extraterritorial effects of the law. More details here.