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After 23-year wait, US squeezes Cuba on confiscated property

AFP  |  Washington 

will open the way for lawsuits in US courts over property confiscated by Cuba, enforcing a that could rattle the island's economy and anger European allies after more than two decades of delay.

Ever since passed the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, US presidents starting with have used their power to suspend the key provision every six months, mindful of the international consequences.

Those once-routine waivers are now over. A senior administration said will formally unveil the shift Wednesday in a speech in to expatriates from as well as and Nicaragua, two other countries in with leftist governments opposed by Trump.

Bolton "will announce the enforcement of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act," the said.

Under the 1996 law, Cuban exiles will be allowed to to sue both private companies and the for profiting from properties nationalized after Fidel Castro's 1959 communist revolution.

While US courts cannot directly enforce decisions inside Cuba, the Helms-Burton Act is meant to send a chilling message to foreign investors -- including Americans -- who may increasingly decide to exit or steer clear of the island.

When it was initially passed, the law had been strongly opposed by the European Union, which worries about legal repercussions for its businesses in the

A related provision restricts entry into the of anyone who is connected to an unresolved claim in over confiscated property.

Republican lawmakers who have long pushed for tough action on have rejoiced at the Trump administration's signals since January that it was moving to fully enforce the Helms-Burton Act.

"Years of consecutive extensions may have lulled some into a false sense of impunity," said Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican of Cuban descent.

"Yet now companies which willingly entangle themselves in partnerships with the anti-American, illegitimate and oppressive regime in Cuba are on notice that they will be held responsible for their part in callously benefiting from the extensive losses suffered by victims of the regime," he said in a recent statement.

The and Economic Council, a New York-based group that supports commercial ties between the longtime adversaries, said that companies with combined revenues of USD 678 billion could be targeted in Helms-Burton lawsuits.

According to the group, companies that have been mentioned for potential lawsuits include major international airlines, including US-based American, and United, such as and and companies as diverse of French and Chinese

Trump's move marks a drastic shift from his predecessor Barack Obama, who had normalized relations with Cuba, saying that a half-century of US efforts to topple the regime had failed.

Obama eased for Americans and himself visited Cuba, signaling to many US businesses that the time had come to return to the island.

Trump has also been pushing for the ouster of Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro, a leftist firebrand who presides over a crumbling economy that has sparked a massive exodus.

It is the latest time that Trump has moved ahead with a policy long seen as too disruptive. In 2017, he moved the US embassy in to bitterly divided Jerusalem, similarly ending years of waivers of a US law.

The Helms-Burton Law is named for far-right and They drafted the law passed by after Cuba shot down two aircraft flown by exiled activists, putting an end to tentative efforts by Clinton to try to repair relations.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, April 17 2019. 00:40 IST