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Inés Fors Fernandez | US action against Cuba violates international law

Published:Monday | April 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM
European Union Ambassador Alberto Navarro speaks during a interview in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Navarro says the Trump administration's crackdown on business with the communist government is causing unprecedented concern among European companies doing business on the island.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives to speak at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2019. The Trump administration announced that it's allowing lawsuits against foreign companies operating in properties seized from Americans in Cuba, a major policy shift that has angered European and other allies.
Inés Fors Fernandez

On April 17, the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced the activation for the first time ever of a measure that will allow the filing of lawsuits before United States courts under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, a decision that will take effect on May 2. On the same day, the United States National Security Adviser, John Bolton, also announced additional restrictions on Cuba, including visas and travel.

By virtue of the very Helms-Burton Act, all United States presidents since 1996, including Trump in 2017 and 2018, have consistently made use of the executive power to suspend the implementation of Title III every six months. They have recognised that it is the most gross and unacceptable aspect of the act, contrary to international law and the sovereignty of other states. They have also realised that Title III implementation will bring about insurmountable obstacles to any prospective solution to claims and compensations to legitimate United States owners.

Title III authorises United States nationals to bring action before United States courts against any foreign citizen that is “trafficking” in United States properties that were nationalised in Cuba in the 1960s by means of a legitimate process, as was recognized by the United States Supreme Court, that was carried out by the Cuban government, in full adherence to its national legislation and in conformity with international law. All nationalisations included processes of fair and appropriate compensation. Cuba reached and honoured global compensation agreements with other nations, which are today investing in Cuba, such as Spain, Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Tightening of blockade

The Helms-Burton Act was conceived to codify and tighten the economic, commercial and financial blockade policy officially imposed in 1962, with the purpose of subverting and overthrowing the Cuban government. It is intended to suffocate the Cuban economy and generate or increase shortages among the population with the purpose of imposing in Cuba a government that serves the interests of the United States.

It consists of four titles and has been implemented since its enactment. It is characterised by having an extreme extraterritorial scope, violating the rules and principles of international law, contravening the rules of trade and international economic relations, and being harmful to the sovereignty of other states, particularly because of the implementation of its provisions against companies and individuals established in their territories.

The declaration of the Cuban government issued on April 17 “rejects, in the strongest terms possible, the decision that now allows actions to be taken in United States courts against Cuban and foreign entities, and to aggravate impediments to entering the United States faced by leaders and families of companies that legitimately invest in Cuba, in properties that were nationalised”.

The statement also repudiates “the decision to reinstate limits on remittances that Cuban residents in the United States send to their families and friends, to further restrict travel by United States citizens to Cuba, and impose additional financial sanctions”.

The aggressive escalation of the Trump administration and the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton act have been rejected by the governments of Canada, Russia, China, Mexico, as well as by the European Union. On April 17, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini; the trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom; and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, issued a joint statement criticising the US decision to implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

The statement expresses that “The decision by the United States to renege on its long-standing commitment to waive Title III of the Helms-Burton is regrettable, and will have an important impact on legitimate EU and Canadian economic operators in Cuba. The EU and Canada consider the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures contrary to international law”.

On the other hand, a press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico states. The government of Mexico regrets the decision of the United States to apply Title III of the Helms-Burton Act for the first time ever … . As it has done historically, Mexico rejects the unilateral application of extraterritorial trade legislation, as it violates the norms of international law.”

For almost three decades, the Helms-Burton Act and the blockade have aroused universal rejection at the most important regional and international fora, given the illegitimate character of the goals they pursue. The most recent example of that was the United Nations General Assembly meeting held on November 1, 2018, when said policy was rejected through ten consecutive votes, thus leaving the US in complete isolation.

Specialised international bodies and regional organisations, such as the community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the African Union, have also rejected unanimously the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against the people of Cuba for 60 years.

In our long battle to end the US blockade, Jamaica’s solidarity has been shown. The Cuban people deeply treasure the fact that the Parliament of Jamaica has adopted Motions against this cruel policy for ten consecutive years.

The recent United States government´s decision imposes additional obstacles to Cuba economic development and progress goals, but the United States will keep on failing to achieve its main purpose of imposing a fait accompli on Cubans. The principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace should prevail, for the benefit of all. The feelings of the peoples of Cuba and the United States in favour of improving relations and establishing a civilized and respectful coexistence shall prevail.

Inés Fors Fernandez is the ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Jamaica. Email feedback to and