Airbnb Is Sued in the United States for Renting a Property Confiscated by the Cuban Revolution

The property subject to the lawsuit is a six-unit building located at number 1212 on 33rd Avenue, in Miramar.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 March 2024 — An American doctor, Javier García-Bengochea, has sued the Airbnb platform for renting a property in Havana confiscated by Fidel Castro in 1960. According to the Nuevo Herald, the lawsuit was filed on Monday in the court of the central district of Florida, based in Orlando.

The property subject to the lawsuit is a six-unit building — defined in the Airbnb ad as “magnificent” and “elegant” — located at number 1212 on 33rd Avenue, in Miramar, built in 1939 by the Parreño family. One of its members, Alberto Parreño, died in 1972, and the plaintiff’s cousin inherited the property from him.

In 1970, explains the Herald, the Foreign Claims Resolution Commission of the Department of Justice certified the claim of Alberto Parreño, then a US citizen, to a third of the land and the building, valuing his loss at $66,666 in the 1960s (equivalent to almost $700,000 today).

The complaint brought by Javier García-Bengochea, family estate administrator, alleges that Airbnb “continued to advertise the property between August 2019 and May 2022,” after being notified that it was subject to a claim, and that it had “trafficked the property consciously, voluntarily, intentionally and continuously,” at least since 2017.

The doctor, a neurosurgery specialist and resident of Jacksonville, sued the State Department in 2009 for renting a penthouse in another building owned by his family to house American diplomats.

It’s not the first time that the doctor, a specialist in neurosurgery and resident of Jacksonville, has filed a claim based on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act

It’s not the first time that the doctor, a specialist in neurosurgery and resident of Jacksonville, has filed a lawsuit based on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, activated by Donald Trump’s Administration in 2019.

In 2019, he filed complaints against several shipping companies for using the lands that house the port of Santiago de Cuba, inherited by García-Bengochea in 2000 from his cousin Desiderio Parreño, and this in turn from his brother Alberto. The lawsuit was settled, on that occasion, in favor of the cruise companies.

This did not happen in a similar case, that of Mickael Behn, who sued Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises for using the facilities in the port of Havana, originally owned by his family. The judges ordered the shipping companies to pay more than 400 million dollars in compensation.

At the beginning of 2022, Airbnb faced another type of problem related to the Island when it was sued for violations of the embargo on Cuba and was forced to pay $91,172.29 to the US Government. In addition, it had to commit to addressing “deficiencies in compliance with sanctions” and introducing “additional commitments designed to minimize the risk of recurrence of similar behavior in the future.”

Airbnb was ordered to block the granting of permits to people located in Cuba who were acting as hosts on the platform, and to collect information about the country of residence and the payment instrument of the users, to determine if they are “nationals or residents” of the Island and ensure that the hosts certify that they are private entrepreneurs and not “officials of the Cuban Government or members of the Communist Party.”

Since then, Airbnb – strongly defended by the Island’s regime – has continued to operate normally and currently has announced on its website more than 1,000 rentals in Havana. But not, however, the apartments that are the subject of Javier García-Bengochea’s lawsuit.

In its conditions, Airbnb dumps on the ’host’ – as Airbnb calls the individual renting the property – the whole burden of complying with the legislation in force in the country or city of the property and presents itself as a mere digital space for ads, without any responsibility for the properties that are promoted on its page. However, Airbnb is profiting from that property, since it charges a commission.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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