This article explores the complexities of property claims in Cuba, which have become particularly complicated as the United States gradually restores diplomatic and commercial relations. The article centers on the property claims of José Ramón López, a Cuban exile who considers himself the owner of Havana's airport and the heir of Cuba's airline. While many have dismissed his claim, López is looking for compensation from the U.S. government. With the February 2016 agreement that restored commercial airline service between the two countries, López's property claims have become more urgent. However, the U.S. government seems unlikely to become involved in any legal action regarding claims that would deter normalization, despite the State Department's claim that property disputes regarding Cuban Americans are of the "highest priority."
In Major Breakthrough, Cuba and U.S. Discuss $1.9 Billion in Property Claims
By Nick Miroff (Washington Post, December 8, 2015)
This article discusses the December 2015 talks between U.S. and Cuban officials to negotiate a possible settlement for $1.9 billion worth of American assets seized by the Cuban government. By addressing property seizures of the early 1960s, the United States hopes to begin the process of lifting the embargo, while Cuba may stand to gain reinvestment from some U.S. companies wishing to return to the island. Cuba has settled property claims with compensation to other countries, but currently no international court exists to assess the claims for both the United States and Cuba.
Reconciling U.S. Property Claims in Cuba: Transforming Trauma into Opportunity
By Richard E. Feinberg (Brookings Institution, December 2015)
This detailed and extensive report approaches U.S. property claims in Cuba, as well as Cuban counter-claims, through an interdisciplinary methodology. By considering legal, economic, and sociopolitical ramifications, Feinberg aims to holistically address the complexities of property claims and offer potential solutions to the unique U.S.-Cuban situation. He also offers comparative examples from countries like Vietnam, the Soviet Union, Germany, and Nicaragua.
As U.S. and Cuba Relations Warm, Property Claims Issue Is Revived
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis (New York Times, July 19, 2015)
With the resumption of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana, American individuals and companies who hold financial claims against the Cuban government are seeking compensation for property seized in the revolution. U.S. officials have said that resolving property claims (now valuing between US$6 and $8 billion) is a priority. For its part, the Cuban government estimates that economic losses from the embargo amount to $157 billion.
Obama's Cuba Shift Puts Spotlight on Firms' Asset Claims
By Jacob Gershman (Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Dec 22, 2014)
This blog post focuses on property claims by U.S. companies and citizens filed against Cuba after the Castro government seized U.S. property following the revolution. The article points out that the issue was not mentioned in the Obama administration's Cuba plan announcement, but that it will play a key role in discussions moving forward. In addition to addressing the legality of the claims in light of the reinstatement of diplomacy, the article also speculates about ways claims may be settled.
Certified Claimant List
(Foreign Claim Settlement Commission of the United States Cuban Claims Program, April 22, 2009)
This list includes the names of claimants, the type of loss, and the location and amount of property lost by American individuals and businesses that had their property repatriated by the Cuban government after the Revolution.
Report On The Resolution Of Outstanding Property Claims Between Cuba & The United States
(Creighton University School of Law & Department of Political Science, 2007)
The resolution of property claim settlements is a prerequisite for the normalization of U.S. Cuba relations under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. A research team at Creighton University developed a property claims settlement mechanism that calls for a bilateral Cuba-US Tribunal, which would handle claims by U.S. nationals that have been certified by the Federal Claims Settlement Commission, and a Cuban Special Claims Court, which would handle claims by the Cuban-American exile community. The proposal emphasizes the importance of addressing those legitimate claims made by Cuban citizens on the U.S. for frozen assets, which if not resolved could hinder the development of constructive bilateral relations. The report also includes possible legislative amendments by the U.S. that may need to be taken into consideration, and the socio-economic repercussions of the plans should they be implemented.
The People of Cuba vs. The Government of the United States of America for Human Damages
(Civil And Administrative Court Of Law At The Provincial People's Court In Havana City, 1999)
Filed on behalf of numerous Cuban civil society organizations, this claim demands compensation for various crimes against the Cuban people by the U.S. government including terrorism, biological warfare, the use of Guantanamo as an instrument of aggressive policy toward the Island, and 5 years of armed banditry following the revolution that have resulted in death or injury to Cuban citizens.
Settlement of Outstanding United States Claims to Confiscated Property in Cuba
(U.S. Department of State, 1996)
This report to Congress includes an estimate of the number and amount of claims to property confiscated by the Cuban government that are held by United States nationals; the significance of promptly resolving confiscated property claims to the revitalization of the Cuban economy; a review of assistance that the U.S. could provide to help either a transition government in Cuba to establish mechanisms to resolve property questions including those claims by United States nationals who did not receive or qualify for certification under section 507 of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949; and an assessment of areas requiring legislative review or action regarding the resolution of property claims in Cuba prior to a change of government in Cuba.
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GAO Letter to Representative Charles Rangel
This Government Accounting Office report to the House of Representatives documents the status of claims filed by U.S. nationals against Cuba, of blocked assets in the United States that are held by Cubans, and of trade between Cuba and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies. It also provides information on the potential of Cuba as a market for U.S. exports and the effect that lifting the U.S. embargo of Cuba might have on the U.S. government's Caribbean Basin Initiative program.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission
The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States (FCSC) is a quasi-judicial, independent agency within the Department of Justice which adjudicates claims of U.S. nationals against foreign governments, under specific jurisdiction conferred by Congress, pursuant to international claims settlement agreements, or at the request of the Secretary of State.
Section II Completion of the Cuban Claims Program Under Title V of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949
(Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States, 1972)
This lengthy report, issued by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in 1972, authorized the Commission to determine the validity of U.S. property claims against Cuba, as well as the amount of these claims. The Commission based its report on Title V of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949, which does not provide payment of property losses to Americans, but instead provides information to be used in future negotiations of a potential claims settlement. The report details specific property claims-including large U.S. corporations whose property was confiscated by the Castro regime-so that future negotiations (like the most recent December 2015 talks) can be provided with a legal framework to uphold the claims despite the passage of many decades.
Certified Cuban Claims Website
Joint Corporate Committee on Cuban Claims
This website, run by the Joint Corporate Committee on Cuban Claims, offers resources for understanding Cuban seizures of U.S. property, as well as U.S. government policy and international law concerning property claims. The Committee believes that without the fair settlement of property claims, normalization of relations will be a futile effort. They call for the return of property or monetary compensation, emphasizing their desire for a political change on the island would lead to a much more rapid settlement of claims.