14ymedio, Havana, 19 June 2019 — This Tuesday, the law firm Rivero Mestre LLP, based in Coral Gables, Miami, filed a lawsuit against Trivago, a German transnational specializing in hotel and lodging search services, for “trafficking” with properties confiscated by Fidel Castro’s regime at the beginning of the 1960s.
The lawsuit, under the provisions of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, gave notice of the interests of the law firm’s clients to companies that include Expedia Inc., Booking Holdings, Inc. and their respective subsidiaries and affiliates threatened litigation if those companies “do not cease trafficking and compensate the plaintiffs within thirty days of the notification.” Expedia Inc. and Booking Holdings, Inc. have their legal headquarters in the United States.
On May 2 of this year, the Administration of President Donald Trump decided to end the suspension of the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, in retaliation for the alleged interference of the Cuban government in Venezuela.
Under this law, naturalized Cubans in the United States and Cuban-Americans can sue companies who engage in business using properties that were confiscated by the Castro Revolution.
Trivago, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, reported an approximate profit of 1.2 billion dollars last year and the Expedia group, based in Washington, earned some 11.2 billion, according to John S. Kavulich, president of the United States-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, based in New York.
Since the activation of Title III, several lawsuits have been filed against entities of the Cuban State that exploit the confiscated properties in association with foreign companies. The first was presented by the heirs of the previous owners of the ports of Santiago de Cuba and Havana against the US Carnival Cruise Company.
Exxon Mobile sued the Cuban corporation Cimex and the Cuba Petroleum Union, while the Cuban-American Mata family sued the Gran Caribe Hotel Group, the Cubanacán SA International Trade and Tourism Corporation, the Gaviota SA Tourism Group, and the Cimex SA Corporation, among others.
Although Meliá, the foreign company that manages the largest number of hotels in Cuba, was not originally included in the lawsuit, it was notified that according to the law, should it not pay compensation or within 30 days end its operations that involve “trafficking with stolen goods,” it will be sued for up to three times the current value of the property.
Cuba does not recognize the legal standing of the Helms-Burton Act and guaranteed investors the full support of the State, although it is not clear how they can defend the companies before the courts of the United States. The European Union, for its part, has promised the government of the island — where it is the main foreign investor — that it will stop the sanctions issued by US courts against companies from the old continent.
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