May 25, 2019

U.S. to ratchet up pressure on Cuba through the Libertad Act

By Guido Lanfranchi.

Since May 2nd, the United States’ administration will not suspend Title III of the Libertad Act, a historic policy reversal that will step up the U.S. pressure campaign on Cuba. The move comes as a condemnation of Cuba’s domestic political situation, as well as the island’s support for the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The Libertad Act (also known as Helms-Burton Act) was passed by Congress in 1996 to strengthen the pressure applied by the United States on Cuba after the Communist Revolution of 1959. In one of its crucial passages, known as Title III, the Act allowed U.S. nationals with a claim to confiscated property in Cuba the right to file lawsuits against people or companies trafficking in that property. While for the last twenty-two years successive administrations decided to suspend these rights, things are set to change now, as the Trump administration will not suspend Title III starting from May 2nd, 2019. 

The twenty-two years long suspension – a Senior State Department official clarified – had always been aimed at fostering Cuba’s transition towards democracy. However – the official regretted – such transition has never materialized. To the contrary, the U.S. administration accuses the Cuban government of tightening its control on the country’s politics, committing human rights violations, as well as negatively influencing countries across the region, such as in the cases of Venezuela and Nicaragua, where Cuba has historically supported governments unfriendly to the United States. 

In response to this behavior, the United States administration has vowed to step up its pressure on the Cuban government, while pledging support to the Cuban people – the Senior official clarified, underlining the importance of the decision on Title III in this regard. According to State Department estimates, the move might impact as many as 200,000 certified and uncertified claims, involving large amounts of money, allegedly up to tens of billions of dollars. Moreover – the Senior official clarified – no exemptions at all will be allowed under Title III. 

This move has raised a number of issues for the United States, namely concerning its relations with the European Union. The EU has significant relations with Cuba, and EU policy-makers have made clear that they stand ready to file a case against the US at the World Trade Organization to challenge the U.S. decision. The U.S. State Department tried to downplay the disagreement, noting that the U.S. and the EU broadly agree on the promotion of democracy in Cuba, albeit allowing that “there are some disagreement on the tactics to get there”.

Regardless of all controversies, the U.S. seems ready to step up its pressure on Cuba, and the standoff between the two nations seems set to continue in the next future. 

Comments are closed.