14ymedio, Havana, July 13, 2020 – A federal judge in Miami last week dismissed the lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Line brought by a Cuban American, Javier García-Bengochea, who says he is the legitimate owner of the property seized in the port of Santiago de Cuba.
García-Begochea, a neurosurgeon and resident of Jacksonville, inherited the property from a cousin who lived in Costa Rica, and the Cuban Government appropriated it in 1960.
In the judgment of the magistrate, James Lawrence King, although the plaintiff legally received his inheritance, non-U.S. citizens are not allowed to claim confiscated properties in the U.S. by taking advantage of the provisions of the Helms-Burton Law, something that Congress, said the Judge, had tried to avoid.
The plaintiff’s lawyers announced that they are considering possible options for the future, although some media, like The Wall Street Journal, consider that this could set a bad precedent for the hundreds of claimants in a similar situation, either because the court dismisses their lawsuits or because this case disincentivizes the presentation of others.
Carnival had already requested last year that the complaint be dismissed. The cruise company alleges that the heir who originated the claim wasn’t in conformance with Costa Rican law. In addition, García-Bengochea acquired the land in 2000, after the cut-off date specified by Helms-Burton, which is March 12, 1996.
John Kavulich, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, and contrary to the re-activation of Title III of Helms-Burton, said that the judge in Miami “has set the tone for other judges”.
When Title III took effect, an avalanche of demands was expected, since nearly 6,000 claims valuing over two billion dollars had already been certified by the U.S. Government for citizens who had lost property in Cuba.
However, barely thirty lawsuits have been filed against hotels, airlines or financial institutions, including hotel search companies. Among those affected are Amazon, Melía, Société Générale S.A. and American Airlines.
According to Kavulich, many were waiting for the first judicial pronouncements to calculate the probabilities they had for winning some compensation by virtue of the law.
García-Bengochea also had claimed in 2017 a compensation of more than six million dollars from Communications Construction Company Ltd., headquartered in Peking, for “trafficking” with the same property in Cuba.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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