Cuba must compensate US before embargo is lifted: lawmaker
WASHINGTON — Cuba must pay the United States six billion dollars in compensation for expropriated businesses and property before Washington lifts a decades-old trade embargo, a US lawmaker said Thursday.
“We must resolve the over six billion dollars in expropriation claims… before developing a more robust economic relationship with a post-Castro democratic government in Cuba,” said Kevin Brady, a Republican US representative from the state of Texas, speaking at a congressional hearing on US trade with Cuba.
Brady’s remarks come after a top Cuban official last week challenged the United States to lift its punishing economic embargo against Havana.
After coming to power in 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro nationalized numerous US enterprises in the name of the communist revolution.
In 1972, the value of Cuba’s expropriated US property was estimated to be worth about 1.8 billion dollars, according to a US government panel that examined the issue.
That sum has grown more than three-fold over the years because of compounding interest, set at an annual rate of six percent.
The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States (FCSC), the independent, quasi-judicial federal agency under the aegis of the US Department of Justice, is tasked with determining the monetary value of claims by US nationals for loss of overseas property as a result of nationalization or military operations.
At Thursday’s hearing, the US Chamber of Commerce and non-governmental organizations including the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) argued in favor of relaxing trade restrictions against Havana.
Brady said he was “open to loosening some restrictions on Cuba,” but only after the US government and private American interests divested of their property after the revolution were compensated.
President Barack Obama came into office seeking better relations with Cuba, but after an initial thaw, tensions have set in again, most recently over Cuba’s treatment of dissidents.