Opening the litigation floodgates would harm U.S. companies and punish the Cuban people even more, writes Marjorie Cohn.
The Trump administration is threatening to unleash a flood of lawsuits involving Cuba, which no U.S. president has ever done. It has set a deadline of March 2 to announce whether it will create, in the words of the National Lawyers Guild, “a second embargo” of Cuba — “one that would be very difficult to dismantle in the future.”
President Donald Trump may give current U.S. citizens standing to sue in U.S. courts even if they were Cuban citizens when the Cuban government nationalized their property after the 1959 revolution. They would be able to bring lawsuits against U.S. and foreign companies that allegedly profit from the nationalized properties.
In accordance with international law, the Cuban government had offered compensation to U.S. nationals for the taking of their property, as I explain below. If Trump permits myriad new lawsuits to proceed, it would unleash a tsunami of litigation that would harm U.S. companies and punish the Cuban people even more.
For 59 years, the United States has maintained a cruel embargo. “The embargo on Cuba is the most comprehensive set of U.S. sanctions on any country, including the other countries designated by the U.S. government to be state sponsors of terrorism — Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria,” according to the U.S. government.
In 1960, the Eisenhower administration declared a partial trade embargo in an attempt to pressure Cuba to change its form of government. The embargo was prompted by a secret State Department memorandum that proposed “a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
This type of action is illegal under international law, according to Idriss Jazairy, the U.N. special rapporteur concerned with the negative impact of sanctions.
“Coercion, whether military or…