HAVANA – Spain’s minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, offered on Monday in Havana support for Spanish businesses operating in Cuba against possible lawsuits in the United States under the recent application of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.
“As long as there are measures by the United States that threaten the interests of Spanish companies, the government will support the Spanish companies,” Maroto told EFE in the Cuban capital, where she had traveled to attend the Fitcuba tourism fair, dedicated this year to Spain.
The minister will create together with representatives of Spain’s largest business organization, the CEOE, a working group that will “outline measures of support and plan for what could be years of legal battles.”
She let it be known that for now two “focal points” will be activated, one a Spanish Commercial Office in Cuba and another in Madrid, in order provide “information and counsel” to Spanish business owners and executives whose firms could be affected by US lawsuits.
US President Donald Trump allowed waivers to Title III of Helms-Burton to expire earlier this year as part of efforts to bring about political change on the Communist-ruled island.
Title III, which allows Cuban-Americans and other US citizens and corporations to sue entities that have been “trafficking” in property that was seized by the Castro government on or after Jan. 1, 1959, had never gone into effect due to rolling six-month waivers.
Carnival Corporation was sued last Thursday in federal court in Miami over its use of port facilities in Cuba that were expropriated without compensation after the revolution.
Notable among the Spanish firms that could be sued are Melia, Iberostar and the Barcelo Hotel Group, which operate as a mixed company more than 60 hotels belonging to the Cuban government, a business that began in 1990 with the opening of the island’s first Melia hotel at the seaside resort of Varadero.
Spain along with the European Union and other countries that could be hit by the latest Trump measure have directly opposed it, considering it an offense against international law, while the EU has vowed to counterattack with reciprocal measures if any companies in the bloc are affected.
Maroto’s visit to Cuba also includes meetings with senior officials, the inauguration Tuesday of Fitcuba, and a visit on Wednesday to the main Spanish hotel companies in Varadero.