U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are reportedly lobbying the Trump administration to get compensation from Cuba for Americans whose property was confiscated when the communist government nationalized industries and utilities.
“The U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) has certified more than 5,900 claims against the Cuban Government for stolen property. These claims—now valued at approximately $8 billion—remain unresolved,” the letter said.
The senators rejected the Cuban government’s argument that it is owed $300 billion by the U.S. government because of the economic embargo and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
“While the Cuban Government has manufactured ridiculous counter-claims to avoid responsibility, we urge you to seek fair compensation on behalf of these Americans as soon as possible,” they said.
In the letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Florida senators also brought up an Obama administration decision concerning a trademark dispute involving Havana Club rum and Bacardi.
The senators noted their objection to a decision made over a year ago by the Office of Foreign Asset Control and Patent and Trademark Office to give Cubaexport, which is owned by the Cuban government, a license for the Havana Club rum trademark.
“Cubaexport registered the trademark for Havana Club in the United States only after the Cuban Government stole the trademark from the original owners,” the letter said. “The decision was a troubling development, given longstanding U.S. policy and support for the rightful owners of stolen property, and we urge you to reconsider.”
The “original owners” the senators are referring to is Bacardi, which reportedly bought the rights to the trademark but had its assets confiscated after the Cuban revolution. Today, Bacardi sells liquor with the Havana Club rum label in the U.S., while Cubaexport sells the rum internationally.
The letter comes almost a week after Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford proposed a “creative” addition to a House bill that seeks to remove restrictions on financing agricultural exports to Cuba: a 2 percent fee on food products sold to the island nation would pay for properties confiscated by the Castro regime.
“We know there are a significant number of Cuban Americans who are aggrieved because they had their properties thieved years ago in the revolution,” Crawford said. “We have come out with a vehicle by which they actually receive compensation, which is a key component of the legislation. Every transaction will have a 2% excise fee that would be collected and administered to certified claimants through the Treasury Department.”
Crawford has reportedly been working with Cuban-American congressmen on the bill. Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo recently announced his support for an excise tax on Cuba transactions.
“Although no definitive agreement has been reached, the concept that the victims of Castro’s tyranny may perceive some benefit from U.S.-Cuba transactions deserves to be considered,” Curbelo told The Miami Herald. “During the previous administration everything was granted to the dictatorship without demanding anything. Now that has to change.”
Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is also involved in the negotiations. His office told news sources that “there is no deal yet.”