14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2020 — Andrés Rivero Mestre, the lawyer who defends several of the families that claiming compensation for the expropriation of their assets by the Cuban Government after the Revolution in the 1960s, calculates that the Meliá Mallorcan hotel chain should pay his clients more than 150 million dollars, as he has told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
Rivero, a Cuban of Spanish descent, is defending the interests of the Sánchez-Hill, Mata, López Regueiro and Echevarría families, among others, from his office in Florida.
“We claim, under the law, three times the value of the 39 hotels, which obviously now exceeds 150 million dollars,” he explained to El Mundo. The estimate is based on the calculation made by an expert who valued the hotel deemed to have the lowest value at about five million dollars. “If that is the least valuable, I estimate that the collection would exceed 150 million, but the truth is that I don’t know, I would be speculating if I gave an exact figure.”
The accounts have been using estimates of the room rates and occupancy levels of the hotel in recent years.
Rivero’s idea is to claim compensation from the Meliá chain and then extend that to the rest of the chains. The families he represents have claims on 15 of the 39 facilities that Meliá manages in Cuba, but the demands can be extended using a class action lawsuit that allows claims on behalf of all those affected.
At the moment, the prospects for success are not high. Earlier this year, a Florida judge removed the Mallorcan company from a case for claims because it was not within his competence to rule on land expropriations in other countries. In addition, the European Union has activated the blockade statute, a rule created in 1996 to protect against the Helms-Burton Act.
The US State Department, for its part, is in contact with Rivero’s office. “We have asked them to impose sanctions and do everything possible: remove visas, whatever, in order to support the actions of my clients,” he said
In early February it was confirmed that Gabriel Escarrer, vice president of Meliá, and other 13 executives are prohibited from entering the United States for this reason, but the hotel group is confident that the law protects them.
Rivero’s strategy, as he told El Mundo, is to focus the current process on the websites that sell hotel stays in Cuba, such as Expedia and Booking, and leave Meliá out at first, based on the fact that these platforms market rooms that can be reserved and paid for from Florida.
“If we win with Expedia and Booking we will have the entire foundation to include Meliá again,” since they can also market their rooms to Florida consumers from their website.
If the plan works, he will continue with Iberostar, Barceló and Blau Hotels and hotels in other countries, he announced.
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