Between 1959 and 1961, Fidel Castro and his regime expropriated almost all of American-owned assets in Cuba in the largest uncompensated taking of U.S. property by a foreign government in history. Such property included 90 percent of all electricity generated on the island, the entire telephone system, most of the mining industry, oil refineries, bottling plants, warehouses, and more than two million acres of land. Nationalized assets also comprised hotels, commercial properties, private residences, artwork, insurance policies, and bank accounts.
The U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission conducted a careful analysis of these property confiscations and certified 5,911 claims by American individuals and businesses. Originally valued at $1.82 billion, these claims are worth a combined total of nearly $7 billion today with 6 percent simple interest. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission referred these certified claims to the Secretary of State for purposes of future settlement negotiations with Cuba. For the last 50 years, it has always been expected that payment of these claims would be a condition for any normalization of relations with Cuba.
Reflecting this decades old policy, Congress in 1996 passed, and President Clinton signed into law, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act. Also known as the “Helms-Burton Act,” this federal law strengthened the U.S. embargo against Cuba and expressly required that the government prioritize the claims of American citizens and enterprises whose properties were confiscated by the Castro regime and required it to secure reimbursement for the expropriated assets before the decades-long trade embargo is lifted.
Cuba is obligated under international law to provide prompt, adequate, and effective compensation to owners of nationalized assets and victims of human rights violations. The Cuban government has acknowledged its liability for nationalizing the American-owned property, but has never provided the compensation it owes.
The Castro Victims Alliance represents all of the Americans whose property was confiscated by the Castro regime without compensation and demands that Congress hold to the promises of the Libertad Act and basic fairness prior to taking any steps to ease the economic embargo on Cuba.