U.S. Government Opens Door for Citizens to Sue Over Confiscated Cuban Property; Cigars Not Included

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The U.S. Department of State has announced a change to one of the most controversial policies regarding Cuba.

Secretary Mike Pompeo announced that the agency was once again suspending Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, however, it would make one exception. U.S. citizens are now allowed to bring lawsuits against certain Cuban companies over property that was confiscated from them or their families by the Cuban government as part of the Cuban Revolution.

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Those entities are part of the Cuba Restricted List, a variety of companies that the U.S. government says help to fund Cuba’s government and military. A full list of those companies is here.

Notably absent from that list is Habanos S.A. or any other company that directly deals with Cuban cigars. Some of the hotels listed on the list include stores within them that sell Cuban cigars, but no cigar factory, tobacco field or cigar company is listed. Today’s decision also won’t allow individuals to sue foreign, non-Cuban companies who do business with Cuba, something that would change if Title III was fully implemented.

This could be the first step in a large reversal of enforcement of Title III, which would open the doors for a variety of individuals, families and companies to sue over the loss of Cuban brands, cigar factories, tobacco fields or other property that was confiscated.

The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, more commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act after the legislators who co-wrote the legislation—was an extension of the existing Cuban embargo passed in March 1996. Its most controversial portion is Title III, which would allow for U.S. citizens to sue both Cuban companies and individuals over confiscated property or even those who “traffic” in confiscated property. Since its passage, Title III has been suspended by the U.S. government until today.

Some have estimated that as many as 200,000 lawsuits could emerge in the U.S. court system regarding Title III and that Cuba likely won’t show up. Those judgments would also further complicated matters if and when more normalized relations with Cuba occurred.

Today’s move, which goes into effect on March 19, is a 30-day extension of the larger Title III suspension. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has indicated that this could be the first step in further moves against the Cuban government.

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Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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