The application of extraterritorial unilateral measures against Cuba is contrary to international law; and its adoption by Donald Trump’s government shows his refusal to listen to the views of many sectors in the United States and of its foreign allies.
Martha Andrés Román
Neither opinions of various legislators, nor analysis from organisations interested in promoting closer relations with Cuba, nor appeals and warnings from the European Union (EU) have stopped the Republican executive from implementing Title III of the controversial Helms-Burton Law.
This section of the legislation, approved in 1996, allows United States (US) nationals to file suit against those who ‘traffic’ in ‘US properties’ in Cuba, and demonstrates the extraterritorial nature of the economic, commercial and financial blockade Washington has imposed on the Caribbean nation for the last 60 years.
Such a mechanism includes the possibility of taking legal action in US courts against people and entities from third countries who invest in those Cuban properties nationalised since the Revolution triumphed on 1st January 1959.
In what is regarded as a contradiction of international law, it even grants authority as claimants to Cuban-Americans who were Cuban citizens at the time when the properties were nationalised.
Given the damage that this section of the law, approved in 1996, would bring —not only for Cuba but for the US and its allies, such as the EU and Canada— since Bill Clinton’s term, Trump’s predecessors have avoided implementing it, instead granting suspensions that were extended every six months.
However, since January, the current Government —caving in to the demands of staunch promoters of anti-Cuban policies, such as Republican senator Marco Rubio— has displayed its intention of allowing the aforementioned Title to be implemented for the first time.
The measure, which various sources primarily see as a political manoeuvre amidst Trump’s desire for re-election in 2020, was officially announced by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on 17th April.
On the same day, the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, revealed further new restrictions to be implemented against the island; different voices have stated that these will have a negative impact on the Cuban people and will damage the US’ own interests.
Pompeo stated that he was “announcing that the Trump administration will no longer suspend Title III. Effective May 2nd, the right to bring an action under Title III will be implemented in full.”
During the address, in which he repeated the attacks and interfering rhetoric frequently used by the US government against the Caribbean country, Trump’s head of diplomacy demonstrated that this Title seeks to curb foreign investment in the island, and as a result, its economic development.
“Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” declared the Secretary of State, who told investors that they are vulnerable to lawsuits and called on them to investigate whether they have connections to ‘stolen’ properties.
The US government will adopt a wider implementation of Title IV of the Helms-Burton Law, which allows Washington to deny visas to foreign entrepreneurs who are involved in investments in nationalised properties.
Moreover, the Treasury Department will implement changes to restrict travel to Cuba for non-family related reasons, making it difficult for North Americans to visit their island neighbour.
US nationals are prohibited from visiting Cuba —the largest of the Antilles— as tourists, and currently they can only travel under 12 categories which include group trips for so-called people to people contact, or with cultural and educational purposes, amongst others.
In addition, limits will be imposed on remittances; despite recognising the importance of these for Cuban families, Trump’s government will only authorise a maximum of $1,000 every three months.
Together with these actions, Bolton said that five names would be added to the list of 200 Cuban entities with which US citizens are prohibited from doing business, including the airline Aerogaviota.
These new measures against Cuba “will set back US interests on the island for years and harm US businesses, US travellers and millions of families living on the island,” said Collin Laverty, President of the travel company Cuba Educational Travel. (PL)
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay