The Hotel Company Melia Achieves Another Success in its Lawsuit for the Use of Confiscated Land in Cuba

The Sol Río y Luna Mares hotel, in Playa Esmeralda, Holguín, is on land that belonged to the Sánchez-Hill family before 1959.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 February 2023 — The Spanish court that in May 2021 issued the provisional dismissal of the lawsuit against the hotelier Meliá filed by the Sánchez-Hill family, for the exploitation of its land in Cuba confiscated by the Cuban government, has dismissed the case for the second time.

The head of the Court of First Instance of Palma that heard the case, informed Expansión on Wednesday that it agreed with the Cuban state company Gaviota and declared the lack of jurisdiction of the Spanish courts in this judicial process.

The order, dated January 27 and to which the economic newspaper had access, indicates that the Spanish Justice cannot recognize, in a legal sense, the confiscation, “given that it was a sovereign act carried out by Cuba through its own laws.” The Court does not rule on its international competence since the lack of jurisdiction is sufficient reason for the filing of the procedure, which sets a precedent in other claims based on the Helms-Burton law against Spanish hoteliers.

In 2019, the Sánchez-Hill family sued the Balearic network Meliá for the exploitation of two hotels, Paradisus Río Oro y Sol and Río y Luna Mares, on land that belonged to their family before 1959. On that occasion, the judge already issued the provisional file of the case for the same reasons as now, but the Sánchez-Hill family appealed to the Provincial Court (higher court) upon considering that the company’s tax domicile made the lawsuit possible.

The plaintiffs then extended the complaint to the Cuban State, as the owner of the land, although the State decided not to appear. Instead, Gaviota did, whose allegations were joined by Meliá.

The state company maintained in its brief that Cuba enjoys immunity from jurisdiction and, since the lawsuit was directed against the Island, the privilege extended to the rest of the defendants. In addition, Gaviota added that meeting the demand meant ruling on goods located within Cuba without extraterritorial effects in Spain, as well as something impossible: ruling on the sovereign acts of a State.

Meliá sources consulted by the Spanish newspaper limited themselves to showing their satisfaction with the dismissal of the case, in which the family claimed at least ten million euros for the “illicit enrichment” of the hotel.

However, the case has generated problems for the chain, including the ban on entry into the United States that hangs over Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice president and CEO of the company, as a result.

The manager, however, said that when he learned about that measure he didn’t “tremble” because of the pressure, and his commitment to Cuba was unconditional. Despite the severe collapse of tourism on the Island, which after the pandemic has failed to recover the past figures and is even below the poorest forecasts, Meliá has not relinquished its expansion strategy.

In addition to the 34 hotels that the Balearic chain manages on the Island, projects are frequently reactivated. The most recent is the December 2021 agreement with the Cuban Medical Services Marketer to include its establishments in the health tourism promoted by the regime, an agreement that is already being implemented, according to the authorities in May 2022, for dialysis patients.

In addition, in the short term Meliá plans to open, although without a specified date, other establishments, such as the Sol Caribe Beach in Varadero and the Meliá Trinidad Peninsula, in Sancti Spíritus. When it has inaugurated these two, it will have 36 hotels, 10% of the total of those in Cuba, and 14,844 rooms, 15.2% of the availability on the Island.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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