Speaking in Miami on April 17, the anniversary of the United States’ failed 1961 invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, national security adviser John Bolton announced the end of virtually all non-family travel to Cuba and placed new limits on the money Cuban Americans can send to family on the island.
He also said the U.S. will now implement a 23-year-old law aimed at blocking both U.S. and foreign investment in Cuba, first passed by Congress in 1996 as part of a broader sanctions package against Cuba but put on hold because it triggered immense opposition among U.S. allies.
The harsh new sanctions reverse “the disastrous Obama-era policies, and finally end the glamorization of socialism and communism,” Bolton said.
A law too controversial to implement
Trump’s decision activates a long-suspended 1996 provision of U.S. Cuba sanctions that allows Cuban Americans to sue in U.S. courts any company that benefits from private property of theirs confiscated by Fidel Castro’s regime.
Image: National security adviser John Bolton announcing the Trump administration’s harsh new sanctions against Cuba, April 17, 2019. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Normally, U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over property owned by non-citizens that is nationalized by a foreign government. For U.S. courts to sit in judgment of another government’s actions toward its own citizens in its own territory is a challenge to that government’s sovereignty.
U.S. allies who do business with Cuba vehemently oppose the move.
In 1996, when the U.S. law was first approved, the European Union filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization and adopted a law prohibiting EU members and their companies from complying with the U.S. legislation. Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom soon passed similar legislation.
In response, President Bill Clinton suspended the lawsuit provision, which is called Title III, for six months, and in 1998 he signed an agreement with the EU that European companies who do business in Cuba would not be targeted.