Cuban dissidents on the island and members of the American exile community welcomed the news Wednesday, the anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, that the Trump administration would allow Americans to sue the Cuban communist regime to reclaim property stolen during the Cuban Revolution.
In a speech after meeting with veterans of the 2506 Brigade, the group of Cuban exiles that organized the Bay of Pigs invasion, National Security Advisor John Bolton also announced the United States would limit remittances to Cuba and begin cracking down on tourism. While tourism by U.S. citizens is technically illegal, many Americans use loopholes in travel exceptions to the Cuban embargo to engage in such activities on the island.
The Castro regime stole property from U.S. citizens estimated to be worth $8 billion dollars in the early days of the Revolution as part of its nationwide effort to “expropriate” private property establish a Marxist dictatorship. The regime has paid none of those citizens any amount of money for what they lost.
The 1996 Libertad Act, commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act, allows individuals to bring lawsuits against the Cuban state in American courts for the value of their property. Every president since Bill Clinton postponed the implementation of the act, however, making it impossible for Americans to exercise the rights it provides. President Donald Trump is the first to enforce the act in 23 years.
“Americans who have had their private and hard-earned property stolen in Cuba will finally be allowed to sue,” Bolton said in Miami, Florida. “We must all reject the forces of socialism and communism.”
The Trump administration also limited remittances to Cuba to $1000 per person per quarter, Bolton stated, adding that more changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba intended to limit the influence of the Castro regime internationally were on the way.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first Trump administration official to announce the implementation of Helms-Burton on Wednesday. In his remarks to the press, he condemned former President Barack Obama for easing sanctions on the Cuban regime.
“President Obama’s administration’s game of footsy with the Castros’ junta did not deter the regime from continuing to harass and oppress the heroic Ladies in White, a group of women dedicated to peacefully protesting the regime’s human rights abuses,” he stated.
Pompeo also condemned Cuba’s “unrepentant exportation of tyranny in the region,” most notably in Venezuela, and asserted that “Sadly, Cuba’s most prominent export these days is not cigars or rum; it’s oppression. Detente with the regime has failed.”
The Ladies in White is a Cuban dissident group formed by the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of political prisoners in the aftermath of the 2003 “Black Spring” arrests. In a short statement on Twitter, the group thanked Bolton for his defense of their struggle.
— Damas de Blanco PREMIO ANDREI SAJAROV 2005 (@DamasdBlanco) April 17, 2019
Jose Daniel Ferrer, the head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) dissident organization and a Black Spring veteran, also supported the measures in an email to Breitbart News.
“The Patriotic Union of Cuba, the largest organization of internal opposition, after consulting most of its members, collaborators and sympathizers, has decided to express its total support to the implementation of Title II of the Helms-Burton Act and all policies that punish tyranny and support pro-democratic opposition and the people of Cuba,” he wrote in Spanish.
Ferrer was arrested in 2003 for allegedly “attempting against the independence of the Cuban economy and nation” by supporting the embargo, something Ferrer explained he did not do at the time. Prosecutors asked for the death penalty in his case but he was only sentenced to 25 years. After significant international pressure, he was ultimately released.
“I thought the embargo was not an intelligent policy given that while the United States sanctioned the Castro communist tyranny, Europe, Canada, Latin America, and others continued to do business and maintain relations” with the regime. President Obama’s move to yield to the Castro regime changed his mind, however, as it emboldened oppression against dissident groups.
Now, Ferrer writes, “Here I am, ready to confront – for supporting the embargo this time – the death penalty or 100 years in prison.”
Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban dissident who has conducted two dozen hunger strikes against the regime, issued a public statement on Twitter also embracing the application of Helms-Burton.
“I support National Security Advisor John Bolton when he says: ‘The United States will never again abandon its friends to appease enemies.’ God bless and protect the defenders of representative democracy in all the world,” he wrote.
Apoyo al Asesor de Seguridad Nacional John Bolton, cuando afirmó: "Estados Unidos nunca más debe abandonar a sus amigos, para apaciguar adversarios". Dios bendiga y proteja a los defensores de la Democracia Representativa en todo el mundo. @AmbJohnBolton
— Guillermo Fariñas (@cocofarinas) April 17, 2019
The U.S.-based Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, which last year launched a campaign to raise awareness in the United States of the extent of stolen American property in Cuba, called the new policy a “great victory for all the victims of the Cuban communist regime” and “a sign of hope for those around the world who aspire to one day have their fundamental human rights respected.”
“The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance receives the promulgation of this measure, on the April 17 anniversary of the Bay of Pigs, as a firm step to combat the financing of atrocities by the communist regime of Cuba inside and outside the country,” the group said in a public statement. “The impunity to this day has only served to sustain the Castro criminal regime for six decades and has allowed the export of destruction and repression to other countries, such as Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
The Trump administration even received praise from Cuban rights advocates in the Democratic Party. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), often among the loudest Trump critics in Congress, said that the new policy means “American citizens are finally being provided the long overdue authority to seek legal recourse and economic compensation against the trafficking and misuse of their properties.”
“Given that Cuba’s recalcitrant regime has never responded to diplomatic outreach, it is necessary to increase pressure on its economic interests … the United States is rightly providing U.S. citizens with the means to hold the Cuban regime accountable through the U.S. justice system,” Menendez said.