On January 17, the U.S. State Department announced its intention to enforce Title III of its criminal Helms-Burton Act “[…] in light of the national interests of the United States and the efforts to expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba, and include factors such as the Cuban regime’s brutal oppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms and its indefensible support for increasingly authoritarian and corrupt regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
Three months later on April 17 it announced that as of May 2 it will begin fully enforcing Title III, which has been suspended by every President since the Act was passed in 1996, in yet another attempt to wreak revenge on Cuba, this time for championing the cause of Venezuela’s right to self-determination, while also using it to escalate its economic war against Venezuela. Title III gives U.S. citizens who previously owned properties in Cuba that were nationalized after the revolution the right to sue Cuban and foreign entities that have made use of those properties or do business with others using those properties in U.S. courts for damages.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier held a press briefing the same day about her government’s decision. As if brandishing a trophy, she drew attention to the fact that the Lima Group, which had met two days earlier in Chile, for the first time expressed “concern over Cuba’s role in Caracas” in its declaration […] and, bizarrely, “called on the Cuban regime to support the transition in Caracas.”
Also on April 17, in a speech to the Bay of Pigs Veterans’ Association in Coral Gables, Florida, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that in addition to activating Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the Trump administration would begin enforcing Title IV. It provides for the denial of visas to and exclusion from the United States of any foreign national who, after March 12, 1996, “confiscates or traffics in confiscated property in Cuba, a claim to which is owned by a U.S. national.”
He used the occasion as well to announce other changes designed to reverse what he called “the disastrous Obama-era policies” and “end the glamourization of socialism and communism.” These included restricting travel to Cuba from the U.S., with only family visits allowed in order to curb what he called “veiled tourism,” reinstatement of caps on remittances to Cuba with $1,000 allowed per person every three months, and additional sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Bolton also took the opportunity to remind his audience that the U.S. had recently sanctioned six companies and 44 tankers engaged in shipping “subsidized oil” from Venezuela to Cuba, and that the previous day, for the first time, one of the ships had been denied entry at a U.S. port. He bragged about the new sanctions being “two-fers” that hit both Venezuela and Cuba, taking perverse delight in declaring “No more subsidies for Communist dictators!”
The new step of the Trump administration is a criminal act of revenge stemming from its failure to impose regime change in Venezuela using all the same terrorist means it has used against Cuba for nearly 60 years that have also failed to achieve regime change there. Enforcing Title III of Helms-Burton will dangerously tighten even further the blockade against Cuba. It is directed against the people in a failed attempt to provoke them to rebel against their government and permit the U.S. imperialists to once again control their destiny. It represents yet another flagrant violation of international law and a direct attack on the sovereignty and interests of third countries.
For its part, Cuba has strongly, firmly and categorically rejected the move to enforce Title III, which, in the words of the statement issued by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “it construes as an extremely arrogant and irresponsible hostile action, and repudiates the disrespectful and slanderous language used in the public announcement made by the State Department.” President Miguel Díaz-Canel said the U.S. announcement “will not change our attitude towards those who are holding the sword against us. We Cubans do not surrender, nor do we accept laws over our destiny that are not in our Constitution. In Cuba, Cubans are in charge. […] Title III is not worse than Titles I or II, that are all part of the array of actions against all the people of Cuba. Nobody is going to make us surrender, either by allurements or by force, the Homeland that our forefathers won standing up.”
Trump and his henchmen will not have an easy go of wielding the new weapon they have given themselves to try to further their unpopular cause. Strong opposition is already being voiced by sectors inside the U.S., including businesses, who stand to be directly affected, as well as by friends of the Cuban and Venezuelan people who are in no mood to stand idly by in the face of this latest escalation of the economic war against both. In the case of Venezuela, activists in the U.S., with the approval of the Venezuelan government, are maintaining a continuous vigil and holding educational events inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC to oppose its takeover by the illegitimate representatives of U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó – a process which the U.S. government is facilitating rather than doing its duty to uphold the inviolability of diplomatic premises.
A number of European countries, like Canada, have significant business interests in Cuba. It will take a staunch stand on the part of the Canadian and other governments to oppose what is coming. Statements were immediately issued by representatives of the European Union and Canada, both individually and jointly. Canada’s put a lot of emphasis on meetings Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had held with her U.S. counterparts to discuss her government’s concerns with the U.S. decision, adding that it would fully defend the interests of Canadians conducting “legitimate” trade and investment in Cuba. In a joint statement Canada and the EU said that they were “determined to work together to protect the interests of our companies in the context of the WTO [World Trade Organization] and by banning the enforcement or recognition of foreign judgements based on Title III, both in the EU and Canada.”
It is quite possible, despite the U.S. State Department representative saying there will be no exemptions from Title III for anyone, that the U.S. will particularly encourage claims against Venezuelan interests in Cuba as well as those countries like Russia and China whom it regards as rivals with no business operating in “its neighbourhood.” This means the government must not only act to defend Canadian interests in Cuba but take a clear stand against the legislation being used against anyone else as well. It will not do, for example, to stand with Europe while letting Venezuela be thrown to the wolves, thereby helping the U.S. achieve its aim of strangling both Cuba and Venezuela. Canadians will stand with the government if it takes a principled, independent stand on this matter and refuses to appease the United States in its criminal aims.
It is a defining moment for Canada. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) calls on Canadians to make their voices heard and to make sure that the Government of Canada does not appease the U.S. in its criminal endeavour on this very important matter to the future of the cause of peace, democracy and freedom on our continent.
1. In a sign that this project of the U.S. and Canada to force regime change in Venezuela is losing steam, not a single Caribbean country, of the few CARICOM members said to be part of the Lima Group, signed that declaration. Counted among its signatories, however, which did not total even half the number of OAS members, was Juan Guaidó’s envoy, supposedly in representation of Venezuela. The group’s next meeting is to take place in Guatemala on a date that has not been announced.
(With files from Prensa Latina, Cubadebate, Miami Herald, Politico.)
TML Weekly, April 20, 2019 – No. 143