Carnival Cruises is the first US company to be sued for using ‘stolen’ property in Cuba after Trump changes the law to allow the owners of the piers where they dock their ships to seek compensation 60 years after they were confiscated by Castro
- Mickael Behn and Javier Garcia-Bengochea filed their suit against Carnival Cruise on Thursday
- They say they are entitled to millions because they own buildings in ports were Carnival cruises anchor in Havana and Santiago de Cuba
- The buildings and piers were snatched from their families by Fidel Castro in the late 50s and early 60s
- They were forced to leave them behind when they and their families fled to US
- Now, for the first time, they can sue in US courts for compensation from anyone who they think used the ‘confiscated’ property or profitied from it
- Carnival is among 60 companies named on a list of those which have had business interests in Cuba since 2014, when relations improved after 60 years
- President Trump is reversing some of Obama’s
A Florida cruise liner company has become the first to be sued for using buildings that were confiscated from their owners by the Cuban government decades ago.
Carnival Cruise Corps. was sued on Thursday by Mickael Behn and Javier Garcia-Bengochea.
They hold claims to buildings at docks in Havana and Santiago de Cuba which were taken from their families by Fidel Castro 60 years ago.
Since 2016, Carnival has used the buildings while anchoring their cruise ships but neither of the men has received money from the company nor have they given their permission to it to do so.
Javier Garcia-Bengochea (left) and Mickael Behn (right) are suing Carnival Cruises for using buildings in Cuba that they own but that were confiscated from them by Fidel Castro in the late 50s
They, along with thousands of others, fled to America after the Cuban Revolution and have been forced to stay for decades as a result of the travel ban imposed after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Carnival launched its first Cuban cruise in 2016 after Obama eased restrictions to allow non-Cuban Americans to visit the island nation.
But Behn and Bengochea have not been able to stake claim to the properties, even as US travel was facilitated.
Their claims have been validated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.
For years, US presidents have refused to allow them or anyone else in their position to sue companies for using the properties in the interest of bolstering relations with Cuba.
That changed this week when President Trump, acting in retaliation for Cuba’s support of Venezuela, toughened the rules again.
He, as part of his crackdown, has fully enacted a provision of the Libertad act which now allows the men to launch legal action against companies which have used the buildings.
Behn wiped tears away from his eyes as he told reporters on Thursday that the company, and the Cuban government, hoped his family would ‘die and fade away’. His family was forced to abandon the property and businesses they owned to flee Castro’s regime
The first Carnival cruise to Cuba from the US is shown arriving in Havana on May 2, 2016
Behn says his claim is worth millions.
His is for buildings and three piers at the Port of Havana which his grandfather built but which his family had to abandon in the 60s.
‘They just hoped my family would die and fade away,’ he said on Thursday, fighting tears as he announced the lawsuit.
Garcia-Bengochea, who lives in Florida, says he has claims to facilities in both Havana and Santiago de Cuba that are worth $45 million.
Carnival dismissed the lawsuit, saying that because the US government sanctioned all its travel to Cuba, they do not stand.
‘Cruising to Cuba falls under the lawful travel exemption under Title 3 of the Helms Burton Act.
‘Our cruise members have been and are now engaged in lawful travel to Cuba as expressly authorized by U.S. federal government,’ a spokesman said.
The men are the first of no doubt many Cuban citizens who will stake claims to properties that they have had to live without for decades thanks to Trump’s change in the law.
CASTRO’S ‘STOLEN’ PROPERTY AND THE FIGHT TO GET IT BACK
After overthrowing Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro and his socialist army snatched up properties and businesses the length and breadth of Cuba.
For those who stayed, it was the start of the new regime but for those who left for America, they were forced to simply leave it all behind.
For decades, the properties and businesses remained under the government’s control and there is still no promise that they will ever be returned to their rightful owners however for the first time, claim-holders can seek compensation for the decades of loss.
Cuban rebels are shown moving into Havana in 1959. Castro seized properties and businesses afterwards with his socialist regime
It is the result of a decision by President Trump to fully enact a provision of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act which has never been allowed before.
It lets Cuban citizens sue the Cuban government in US courts for the first time to seek compensation for their loss.
The change also allows them to sue any companies which may have profited from the ‘stolen’ property.
Carnival is one of 60 companies named on a list of those which have had interests in Cuba since 2014, when Obama made it easier for US citizens to travel there.
Airbnb, which rushed to boost its presence there after the changes, is another.
The others include tour operators, export companies and airlines, all of which may now be vulnerable to lawsuits thanks to Trump’s law-change.
Fidel Castro is shown before the insurgency against Batista in 1959 with two guerrillas
Some of the other Cubans who have expressed interest in filing lawsuits to seek money for their losses is a man whose family had a controlling stake in the airport when the revolution took over.
Jose Ramon Lopez Regueiro says he is the only heir of the airport in Havana.
He was six when his father, Jose Lopez Vilaboy, fled the country for the US after Batista was overthrown.
He owned the airport, an airline and newspapers but was forced to leave it all behind.
He claims the airport alone was worth more than $24million in 1958.
‘First I’m going to file my claim for the Havana airport and Cubana de Aviacion,’ he said last month after Trump announced the change in the law.