Castro's $6 Billion Problem

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
From Fox News:

A $6 billion sticking point could create headaches for the U.S.-Cuba talk

Though concerns over human rights, press freedoms and U.S. fugitives living free on the island have dominated debate over the Obama administration's negotiations on restoring diplomatic ties, the Castro regime also still owes Americans that eye-popping sum.

The $6 billion figure represents the value of all the assets seized from thousands of U.S. citizens and businesses after the Cuban revolution in 1959. With the United States pressing forward on normalizing relations with the communist country, some say the talks must resolve these claims.

"The administration has not provided details about how it will hold the Castro regime to account for the more than $6 billion in outstanding claims by American citizens and businesses for properties confiscated by the Castros," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-Fla., top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of historic talks in Havana last week.

Menendez urged the U.S. to "prioritize the interests of American citizens and businesses that have suffered at the hands of the Castro regime" before moving ahead with "additional economic and political concessions."

Beginning with Fidel Castro's takeover of the Cuban government in 1959, the communist regime nationalized all of Cuba's utilities and industry, and systematically confiscated private lands to redistribute -- under state control -- to the Cuban population.

The mass seizure without proper compensation led in part to the U.S. trade embargo.

Over nearly 6,000 claims by American citizens and corporations have been certified by the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, totaling $1.9 billion.

Today, with interest and in today's dollars, that amount is close to $6 billion.

U.S. sugar, mineral, telephone and electric company losses were heavy. Oil refineries were taken from energy giants like Texaco and Exxon. Coca-Cola was forced to leave bottling plants behind. Goodyear and Firestone lost tire factories, and major chains like Hilton handed over once-profitable real estate for nothing in return.

According to the Helms-Burton Act, which enforces the sanctions, the embargo cannot be lifted until there is "demonstrable progress underway" in compensating Americans for their lost property. (Congress also would have to vote to lift the embargo.)