It is Friday afternoon in Washington and the Venezuelan crisis continues. The Economist says that "an attempt to depose the dictator appears to have failed." The Economist recommends to "try again." President Trump, concerned about mounting Venezuelan casualties, told Havana that additional American sanctions will be imposed until Raul Castro's troops are withdrawn from Venezuela. Many agree, but some in the Congress would like the President to place Cuba back in the list of governments supporters of terrorism, until Havana returns killers of American police officers enjoying the hospitality of Havana to face American justice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to offer a million dollars for information leading to the capture of one of them, who murdered a New Jersey State trooper, was sentenced to life, and escaped to Cuba where she enjoys the hospitality of Cuban strongman, General Raul Castro. [New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker please take note] In this issue, in case you missed it, we are sending a complete article recently published by the Miami Herald: "Americans who had property confiscated in Cuba should be compensated" by two former American ambassadors.
As always, we love to hear from our readers.
Miami Herald, May 2, 2019
Americans who had property confiscated in Cuba should be compensated | Opinion
By Ambassador Everett E. Briggs and Ambassador Otto J. Reich
A nationalized cement factory in Mariel, Cuba once owned by Lone Star Industries of Connecticut, is among thousands of U.S.-owned properties nationalized by Cuba and long ignored in the political battle between the two countries - until now. JOHN MCCONNICO ASSOCIATED PRESS
Regardless of what critics say, the US is legally and morally correct to allow implementation of the Helms-Burton Act’s Title III, which allows Americans whose properties were confiscated without compensation to sue foreigners profiting from those properties in Cuba. At issue is not the right of foreigners to invest in Cuba.
Foreign investors around the world should applaud the United States decision to provide legal recourse in American courts, since in Cuba there is neither the rule of law nor an independent judiciary that could adjudicate such claims. This is not the only case in which crimes which have occurred outside the United States may be litigated in the United States.
Those objecting to the Administration’s decision do not deny that traffickers profit from stolen American property; instead, they cynically argue that the United States should simply do nothing about it. There is an alternative for those trafficking in stolen property: to negotiate a settlement with the legitimate owners.
Let’s look at the facts. Since 1996, Americans could sue in U.S. courts foreign companies who profit from properties seized from them in Cuba. Until now every US president has suspended implementation of Title III because blocking access to the courts, it was argued, would provide time for foreign companies and governments to pressure the Cuban government to reform, such as release its political prisoners, and end its support for international terrorism, including providing safe heaven to killers on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
Those hopes have not materialized. Rather, foreigners profited from stolen properties and from Cuba’s captive labor force, which receives from the Cuban government a fraction (about 8 percent) of what the foreign company pays the communist government’s ministry that allocates the worker to each job.
In the 23 years that the Helms Burton law was repeatedly waived by consecutive US presidents, the Castro regime continued Leninist repression at home and Marxist subversion abroad. Not only did our democratic allies do nothing to press for freedom in Cuba, the opposite happened.
It is heartbreaking when business profits so blind the leaders of otherwise moral and democratic nations that they align themselves with oppressors and not with the oppressed.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s reach has been extended to its Caribbean neighbor, Venezuela, where the illegitimate rule of Nicolás Maduro is responsible for great misery, repression and millions of refugees.
Maduro is propped up by what Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, has correctly denounced as Cuba’s “army of occupation.” More than fifty nations around the world have withdrawn recognition of the Maduro regime. The presence of Russian military advisers in Venezuela would have been inconceivable without Raul Castro’s prior military deployment there. In effect, Havana has exported its political repression and failed economic system to a nation that once had the highest per capita income in Latin America.
Foreign companies profiting from stolen property in Cuba are partners of a regime that does not permit them to operate without having a controlling interest in their businesses on the island. The investors are accomplices in the mistreatment of Cuban workers who are denied the most basic labor rights, including the right to collective bargaining and to form an independent labor union.
America’s allies should revisit the facts and support the Administration decision, which buttresses individual and property rights, both essential to a democracy.
Everett E. Briggs is a former U.S. ambassador to Panama, Honduras and Portugal, and chairman of the board of Center for Free Cuba. Ambassador Otto J. Reich is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and ambassador to Venezuela, and currently president of the Center for Free Cuba, a non-partisan human rights and pro-democracy organization.
The Economist, May 2, 2019
How to get rid of Nicolás Maduro
An attempt to depose the dictator appears to have failed. Try again
April 30th dawned promisingly in Venezuela. Juan Guaidó, acknowledged as the country’s interim president by many democracies and millions of Venezuelans, appeared outside an air-force base in Caracas flanked by national guardsmen to declare that the end of the dictatorship was imminent. By his side was a leader of the opposition, Leopoldo López, who had somehow been freed from house arrest. His presence, and that of the guards, suggested that Venezuela’s security forces were ready at last to withdraw their support for Nicolás Maduro, who has ruled his country catastrophically and brutally for the past six years.
Thus began two days of rumour, intrigue and violence (see article). As The Economist went to press the regime was still in charge and the generals were proclaiming their loyalty to it. Mr Maduro had appeared on television to declare that the “coup-mongering adventure” had failed. Yet this week’s events reveal that his hold on power is weaker than he claims. Mr Guaidó, the United States, which supports him, and the commanders of Venezuela’s security apparatus must work together to put an end to it.