HAVANA (AP) — The Trump administration announced Monday that it is tightening the six-decade trade embargo on Cuba by allowing lawsuits against Cuban companies using properties confiscated after its 1959 revolution, though the impact appears to be largely symbolic.
The announcement limits lawsuits to a list of about 200 Cuban businesses and government agencies that are already subject to special U.S. sanctions because they are tied to the Cuban military and intelligence ministries. Virtually none of the businesses have any links to the U.S. legal or financial systems, meaning the ability to sue is unlikely to have any effect on the Cuban economy or foreign businesses that work with the socialist government.
Some of the businesses on the list are hotels operated as joint ventures with foreign companies, but the Trump administration measure does not allow the foreign companies themselves to be sued, a State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Every president since Bill Clinton has suspended a section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that would allow such lawsuits because they would snarl companies from U.S.-allied countries in years of complicated litigation that could prompt international trade claims against the United States.
The new action allows a small portion of Title III of the act to take effect, but the Trump administration raised the possibility of more biting sanctions in the near future: It said this suspension would expire after 30 days while most previous suspensions have lasted six months.
The Cuban government called that an “unacceptable threat against the world.”
Major investors in Cuba include British tobacco giant Imperial Brands, which runs a joint venture with the Cuban government making premium cigars; Spanish hoteliers Iberostar and Melia, who run dozens of hotels across the island; and French beverage-maker Pernod-Ricard, which makes Havana Club rum with a Cuban state distiller.