Exxon Mobil on Friday sued Cuba’s state-owned Cuba-Petroleo and CIMEX Corp in US federal court seeking $280 million over a refinery, gasoline stations and other assets seized after Fidel Castro’s revolution.
Exxon, the largest US oil producer, is the first corporation to sue Cuba since the Trump administration allowed a long dormant section of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, known as the Helms-Burton Act after its sponsors, to take effect on May 2.
The Trump administration has been ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela and Cuba. Previous presidents had waived the provision of the act that allows anyone whose property was nationalised after the 1959 Cuban Revolution to sue any individual or company profiting from their former holdings.
On Thursday two Cuban-Americans sued cruise operator Carnival Corp for using Cuban ports nationalised from the family members who owned them.
Exxon Mobil accuses the Cuban defendants of “unlawful trafficking in Plaintiff’s confiscated property in violation of Title III of the ... Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996,” according to the complaint filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia.
The Standard Oil refinery at Havana Bay, now operated by CUPET, was the first US property taken over by Castro and his bearded revolutionaries after the company refused to process oil from the Soviet Union as tensions mounted with the United States.
Standard Oil was broken up into several companies, one of which was Exxon, which merged with Mobil in a 1998 deal.
In the 1960s the United States certified 5,913 claims against Cuba valued at $1.9 billion of which Standard Oil and Mobil each have a claim valued at a combined $245 million, according to the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.