How Does the Helms-Burton Act Affect Cuba?

The ability of the Cuban people to overcome the longest economic, financial and commercial siege in history is proof of the firmness and perseverance to fight against a legal instrument that provides for pressure actions harmful to the sovereignty of Cuba and third countries.

In this framework, the Helms-Burton Act has the sole purpose of asphyxiating the Cuban economy and “increasing the shortages of the population”, seeking to perpetuate the climate of hostility between Cuba and the United States.

This regulation, created in 1996 and signed by the then President of the United States, William Clinton, reinforces the blockade imposed by the U.S. governments since 1962.

Officially named Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act “imposes sanctions on directors of foreign companies that carry out transactions with U.S. properties nationalized in Cuba and the possibility of lawsuits in U.S. courts”, this is reflected in the report on the affectations of the Blockade on Cuba for the year 2019, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although it establishes that the U.S. president retains his powers to authorize transactions with Cuba through the issuance of licenses, it limits his prerogatives to suspend the blockade only Congress can do that.

Application of the Helms-Burton Act

On May 2, 2020, Title III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act, the activation of which had been suspended since 1996, entered into force.

Title III refers to the “protection of the property rights of U.S. nationals”. It establishes in its precepts that “the Cuban Government is offering foreign investors the opportunity to acquire an equity interest in joint ventures, manage or incorporate such ventures using property and securities that were in part confiscated from U.S. nationals”.

Under this provision, the U.S. Government believes it has the authority to “restore democratic institutions in Cuba through the pressure of a general economic embargo and to protect the claims of U.S. nationals who had property wrongfully confiscated by the Cuban Government”.

Title IV of the Helms Burton Act also prohibits entry into U.S. territory of persons sued under Title III.

Some established claims

According to the Report presented by Cuba at the United Nations, several are the people who, in correspondence with the entry into force of Title III, established lawsuits to judicial bodies:

On May 2, 2019, Havana Docks Corporation filed a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Line before the Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami), alleging “trafficking” with the Havana Cruise Terminal.

On May 2, 2019, the U.S. company ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit against the Cuban entities CUPET and CIMEX before the District Court for the District of Columbia.

On June 18, 2019, a lawsuit for damages through a “class action” by Marisela Mata and Bibiana Hernandez against the German Hotel Group Trivago was filed before the Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.

On June 24, 2019, four lawsuits were filed before the Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act where the plaintiffs claimed to be the original owners of Cayo Coco and Varadero.

Effects of the blockade on the people of Cuba

The health and food sectors have been the most affected by these years of blockade, however, in spite of the maneuvers aimed at promoting hunger and disease among the Cuban people, the island continues to achieve impressive results in the social sphere.

Some of the effects are due to the hindrance in the acquisition of technologies, raw materials, reagents, diagnostic means, equipment and spare parts, as well as medicines for the treatment of serious diseases.

“In spite of the efforts made by the State, the quality of educational services has been affected due to the regulations imposed by the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the U.S. government,” the Report states.

During 2019, the damages caused by the blockade in the production and services sectors were quantified at 79 million dollars, which represents an increase of 28 percent in relation to the previous period.

An absurd law

The president of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, said that the “U.S. government seeks to justify its aggressive acts against Cuba, Latin America and the world with absurd laws such as the Helms-Burton Act”.

Likewise, he said in his Twitter account that “the United States insults sovereign nations by summoning them to be accomplices of its imperial policy. Today they are going against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, like yesterday against Iraq, Libya, Syria. Who will be next?”.

Source: Telesur, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English