The Trump administration on Monday took the historic step of implementing Cuba sanctions.
Specifically, the administration is temporarily permitting U.S. citizens whose property was stolen by the Castro regime to pursue legal action.
From March 19 to April 17, Americans will be able to sue 205 Cuban companies that are owned and/or operated by the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.
Penalizing the Cuban regime serves two purposes right now. It addresses the longstanding issue of uncompensated claims, and it also punishes the regime for the destabilizing role it has long played in Venezuela.
The Cuba sanctions were originally codified in 1996 under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, but since its enactment, U.S. administrations have suspended enforcement of the sanctions component of the law, known as Title III.
Full enforcement of the law would permit Americans whose property was seized without compensation by the Castro regime to bring legal action against any foreign company operating inside of Cuba.
Monday’s actions constitute a partial enforcement, as legal action can only be brought against Cuban regime companies on the U.S.’ Cuba Restricted List.
According to the State Department, every one of these companies is “under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.”
Valued at nearly $8 billion, Cuba’s illegal confiscation of American property and assets is considered to be the “largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history.”
The total value of assets stolen by the regime is even higher, as those figures don’t include American citizens who were Cuban nationals at the time their property was taken.
The timing of Monday’s announcement should send a strong message to the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, and to the international community working to resolve Venezuela’s crisis.
Havana has played a key role in Venezuela’s collapse. In exchange for oil and other resources, Cuba has provided Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Caracas with a world-class police state.
Throughout Venezuela, Cuba has protected Maduro with a network of intelligence officers, political advisers, and security officials. The Cubans have shared their “best practices,” which have enabled their own regime’s longevity.
Some falsely believe that the slow trickle of defections from the Venezuelan military indicates continuing strong support for Maduro. The more probable explanation is rooted in Cuba’s extensive counterintelligence system within Venezuela.
Defections and betrayals come at a high cost, not only to the military officials, but to the families left behind. Venezuela currently has the most political prisoners of any country in the Western Hemisphere—even more than Cuba itself.
Getting Maduro to step aside requires making it more costly for Cuba to continue enabling his dictatorship.
The recent U.S. actions demonstrate U.S. policy is correct in linking both issues. It’s now time for international partners and allies to ratchet up the pressure as well.