Sat | Feb 23, 2019

Trump weighs dramatic tightening of US embargo on Cuba

Published:Friday | January 18, 2019 | 9:46 AM
AP photo

HAVANA (AP) — The Trump administration is weighing what could become the most serious tightening of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in more than two decades — a move that could unleash a flurry of lawsuits against foreign companies that have invested on the island.

A 1996 law known as the Helms-Burton Act give Americans the right to sue companies profiting from properties confiscated by Cuba’s government after its 1959 socialist revolution.

That potentially could allow hundreds of lawsuits against corporations around the world, from Spanish companies that run Cuban hotels to Chinese and Turkish firms renovating Cuban ports.

But every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has suspended the key clause, known as Title III, because of its potential to alienate U.S. allies and complicate any future American detente with Cuba.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday appeared to open the possibility that the U.S. government might allow that clause to take effect.

He said the administration was suspending Title III again, but only for a month and a half instead of the six-month suspension that has been constantly renewed since 1996.

Pompeo said the administration was conducting a careful review of Title III “in light of the national interests of the United States and efforts to expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba and include factors such as the Cuban regime’s brutal oppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Both advocates of better US-Cuba relations and opponents of the communist government said Thursday that they expected the Trump administration to allow at least some lawsuits against companies doing business in Cuba when the 45-day review ends.

The lawsuits that follow could create a huge obstacle to foreign investing in Cuba — a major escalation of Trump’s relatively cautious approach so far to unwinding President Barack Obama’s historic detente with the island, which began in December 2014.

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