WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that the U.S. will allow lawsuits against foreign firms operating on property in Cuba seized from Americans. It is a major policy shift that has angered European and other allies.
The decision also deals a severe blow to Havana's efforts to draw foreign investment to the island and comes as President Donald Trump steps up pressure to isolate embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is holding power with help from other countries, including Cuba, China and Russia.
National security adviser John Bolton discussed the new policy during a midday speech Wednesday in Miami, which is home to thousands of exiles and immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The speech at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association was delivered on the 58th anniversary of the United States' failed 1961 invasion of the island, an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.
"Each one of you, our Brigade veterans and exile community members, have borne witness to the horrors of socialism and communism. Nearly six decades ago, many of you willingly put your lives on the line to fight these poisonous creeds in Cuba in order to free the Cuban people from Castro's oppressive reign," said Bolton at the start of his speech.
"The remarkable story of Brigade 2506 helped inspire President Trump's hard-hitting Cuba policy," he said.
"The Trump administration is proud to announce several further measures we are adopting to reverse the consequences of the disastrous Obama-era policies, and finally END the glamorization of socialism and communism."
"I am pleased to stand before you and announce that we have decided to END the Helms-Burton Title III Waivers, once and for all. Americans who have had their private and hard-earned property stolen in Cuba will finally be allowed to sue. Further, for the first time in over 20 years, we will be taking actions to implement Title IV of Helms-Burton. Anyone who traffics in property stolen from Americans will not be issued a visa to the United States. They are not welcome here."
The 1996 act gave Americans the right to sue the mostly European companies that operate out of hotels, tobacco factories, distilleries and other properties that Cuba nationalized after Fidel Castro took power. The act even allows lawsuits by Cubans who became U.S. citizens years after their properties were taken.
There are more restrictions as well.
"Today, we are also announcing five additions to the Cuba Restricted List, which prohibits direct financial transactions with entities tied to Cuba's military, intelligence, and security services and personnel. These additions include Aerogaviota, owned by the Cuban military, among others. This U.S. action should be a signal to all that working with the Cuban military and intelligence services will NOT be tolerated. We are also announcing that the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory changes to restrict non-family travel to Cuba, or in other words, "veiled tourism." These new measures will help steer American dollars away from the Cuban regime, or its military and security services, who control the tourism industry in Cuba."
The U.S. is also implementing changes, through the Treasury Department, to end the use of "U-turn transactions," which allow the regime to circumvent sanctions and obtain access to hard currency and the U.S. banking system.
There will be new limits on remittances to Cuba.
"We know that families in the United States want to help their loved ones in Cuba, and we want Cubans to get the support they need and deserve. For this reason, our new limits will be $1,000 dollars per person, per quarter. The Cuban people are forced to survive on a paltry living wage, and we know that these remittances are critical to families."
He also said the U.S. is cracking down on Cuba's support for Maduro and his "cronies in Venezuela" by imposing sanctions on companies and vessels which transport oil from Venezuela to Cuba. "Yesterday, one of these ships, "The Iron Point," was denied entry to a United States port for the first time.
There are also new sanctions against the Central Bank of Venezuela to restrict U.S. transactions with the bank and prohibit its access to U.S. dollars.
The U.S. is also targeting Nicaragua.
On the heels of issuing sanctions against Vice President Rosario Murillo, Bolton announced "the U.S. will sanction Bancorp - the (Daniel) Ortega Slush fund. We are going after the pocketbooks of Ortega's family, who continue to live off the misery of the Nicaraguan people."
There will also be sanctions on Laureano Oretega, who has been groomed as a successor by the regime.
"This is just the beginning. As long as the people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua stand for freedom, the United States will stand with them," said Bolton.
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