Thursday, January 29, 2015

Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to Americans

Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to Americans
By Gregg JarrettPublished January 28, 2015

In his half century reign of terror, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
committed manifold atrocities. Documented evidence reveals him to be a
ruthless tyrant who endlessly abused the most basic of human rights –a
man who played a pivotal role in bringing the world to the precipice of
nuclear annihilation for 13 harrowing days in October of 1962.

Beyond his crimes against humanity and the callous suffering he
inflicted on the people of Cuba, he ruined the lives and livelihoods of
thousands of Americans. He stole their land, homes, bank accounts,
possessions and businesses. He absconded with their property under the
guise of "nationalization." But he is, in truth, a thief.

Will his victims now be fairly compensated or otherwise see the return
of their confiscated property in the wake of America's first steps
toward rapprochement with Cuba? The answer is both legal and political.
Will his victims now be fairly compensated or otherwise see the return
of their confiscated property in the wake of America's first steps
toward rapprochement with Cuba? The answer is both legal and political.
President Obama holds the key. So, don't get your hopes up.

The Theft

In the first half of the 20th century, Americans and U.S. businesses
dominated Cuba. They accumulated vast holdings of property and operated
many of the most lucrative businesses. All of that ended with the Cuban
Revolution in 1959. Castro "nationalized" U.S.-owned industries and
seized much of the island's private property from Americans. There was
no restitution. One legal scholar called it the largest uncompensated
expropriation by a foreign government in history.

The U.S. retaliated with an embargo, prohibiting all trade. But the
Americans who were expelled from Cuba were left holding titles and deeds
to homes and businesses to which they had no access. Their property
rights were dissolved, and any legal judgments obtained were
unenforceable against an isolated nation that refused to recognize any
authority other than its own.

Thousands pursued legal recourse and sought reparations under
indemnification programs established by Congress. Others filed lawsuits
and secured judgments. But Castro didn't care. He repudiated the
legitimacy of the restitution programs, the valuation of losses and the
legal authority of the courts. This, even though Cuba admits their
renegade nationalization was, and is, compensable.

So what, then, does Castro consider fair compensation? Judging from his
payouts to other aggrieved nations, it is mere pennies on the dollar.

How do you value dirt?

In 1961, the U.S. Commerce Department valued American property seized by
the Cuban government at roughly $ 1 to 1.8 billion. Nearly 6-thousand
claims were legally certified. Other published reports placed the theft
as high as $ 9 billion. But the truth is, it's impossible to know
–especially inasmuch as the value of everything plummeted the moment
Castro took control of the island.

What would the same confiscated properties be worth in today's dollars?
$50 billion? $100 billion? How about nothing at all? Given how the
Castro brothers have driven their economy into the ground, making Cuba
one of the poorest nations in the world, valuation could be closer to
dirt than dollars.

Which invites another question: assuming a monetary value could somehow
be devised, how would Cuba pay for it? With the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Castros lost their financial benefactor. The island is
blighted and broke. Even if it offered government bonds as compensation,
are they worth the paper upon which they are written? How could they be

Reclaim the property?

Theoretically, it is possible for the confiscated property to be
reclaimed someday by the original owners. But that would require a
dramatic Cuban transformation from socialism to democracy where private
property ownership is permitted. In a recent speech, Cuban President
Raul Castro insisted Cuba would not renounces its core socialist ideals
as part of the deal he negotiated with President Obama to renew
diplomatic relations.

Even if some semblance of democracy were to be restored to Cuba in the
distant future, what remains of the stolen property? No one knows how
many of the private residences that were seized have been divided or
fallen into decay. Some may no longer exist. And what of the current
occupants? Would they allow themselves to be kicked out?

The same may be true of the many farms, industries and commercial
businesses that were confiscated and have been put to other uses in the
last 5 decades. Yes, they have development potential in an open, free
market society. But, again, the future of Cuba is nebulous. How
realistic is the return of these vast holdings under a continuing Castro

What Obama should do

As a first condition to normalizing relations, President Obama should
demand that all American victims of stolen property be compensated
equitably. He is already obligated by law to do this under the
Helms-Burton Act. But Obama has a propensity to ignore or overrule with
impunity those laws he regards as misguided or inconvenient. This is one
law he should follow.

A second condition should be the establishment of a commission of judges
with legally binding authority to render compensation decisions. Several
reparation models can be studied and replicated, notably the tribunal
that dispensed claims in post-unification Germany.

Third, cash payments need not be derived exclusively from destitute
Cuban coffers. A system of "user fees" on U.S. money going into Cuba
could help fund the claims. Moreover, license and development rights in
Cuba could be conferred in lieu of cash. It would help stimulate the
moribund Cuban economy while compensating simultaneously the many
American victims of theft.

Fourth, Obama should order that frozen Cuban assets be used for
compensation. In 2012 alone, the U.S. Treasury Department seized $ 253
million in Cuban funds, slightly more than the previous year. It is
unknown precisely how much frozen cash is available, but it could be
enough to pay some of the claims fairly.

Fifth, and importantly, thousands of Cuban exiles living in America who
were also victimized by Castro's prodigious theft should be included in
any negotiated settlement.

President Obama has the power and leverage to force the Castro regime to
capitulate if Cuba wants to end the sanctions and restore economic
relations. But so far, he has uttered not a word about a desire to do so.

And when it comes to negotiations with adversaries, Obama tends to give
away the store.

Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News Anchor and former defense attorney.

Source: Five ways Obama could make Castro pay Cuba's $6 billion debt to
Americans | Fox News -

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