HAVANA – Conglomerate CIMEX and Union Cuba Petroleo (CUPET) plan to fight the claims filed against them by oil supermajor ExxonMobil Corp. in the US courts, state media reported on Tuesday.
The companies “have taken the formal steps, via their attorneys, to defend themselves in a federal court in the District of Columbia (USA),” the official Cubadebate website reported, adding that “this is not the first time, nor is it unusual, that Cuban entities have had to defend their interests in the US judicial system.”
On May 3, ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the United States, filed a $280 million lawsuit against CIMEX and CUPET over properties expropriated by the Cuban government following the 1959 revolution.
In April, the Trump administration said it would invoke a measure for the first time that allows lawsuits against foreign companies operating on properties seized from Americans following the 1959 revolution in Cuba.
The LIBERTAD Act, or Helms-Burton Act, was enacted in 1996 and Title III of the law allows plaintiffs to sue both foreign and Cuban companies making money off properties confiscated after the 1959 Cuban Revolution in US courts.
Implementation of Title III was suspended every six months by the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump did the same thing in his first two years in office, but in January he suspended Title III for only 45 days and then for only 30 days, a term that expired on April 17.
Cubadebate said Cuban state-owned companies had defended themselves in US courts “on more than 40 occasions” since 1960 and “have won favorable verdicts in several cases.”
Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil said in its lawsuit that CIMEX and CUPET had profited off its properties, which were seized the island’s communist government.
“CIMEX and CUPET have generated revenues, obtained profits and realized other benefits from these activities,” ExxonMobil alleged in the lawsuit.
CIMEX, a unit of Cuban state-owned conglomerate GAESA, operates a chain of stores, cafeterias and shopping centers, while CUPET is the state-owned monopoly that controls the energy industry.
“(Exxon) has not authorized CIMEX or CUPET to refine crude oil using (its) confiscated Property, nor has (it) authorized them to produce, transport, make available for sale, or otherwise engage in any commercial activity involving any petroleum products that are or have been produced using (Exxon’s) confiscated property,” the oil company said.
Cuban entities, according to a US State Department estimate, could face up to 200,000 potential lawsuits in the wake of the Trump administration’s policy shift.