Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 17:02:38 -0500
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From: Prensa Latina <email@example.com>
It was the U.S. government which refused to receive compensation
By Gabriel Molina, from Granma International, 10 July 1996
In line with international law and practice, and in accordance with the provisions of the 1940 Constitution, in force at that time, Cuba carried out the nationalization of foreign property in July 1960.
Washington refused to accept the formula and discuss the terms of compensation with Havana. Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, director of the North America department of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke recently with "Granma International" about these antecedents and their implications in connection with the Helms-Burton Act.
The Helms-Burton Act is based on the idea that the former U.S. owners of property in Cuba were never compensated. A State Department spokesperson recently reiterated this contention. How has the process of indemnification of citizens from the United States and other countries developed, legally and politically?
It's true that the U.S. argument seems to be based on this contention, but they have deliberately hidden the fact that it was the U.S. government which did not permit its citizens to be compensated. The nationalization carried out in Cuba was done in conformity with international law and practice, and in accordance with the provisions of the 1940 Constitution, which was in effect at that moment. In all the cases, the Cuban government expressed its willingness to compensate the owners of nationalized properties, but in the case of the former property owners who were U.S. citizens, it was that government which for political reasons prevented a compensation mechanism from being established.
Exactly what happened to the U.S. properties?
In July 1960, the Cuban government issued Law No. 851, which authorized the nationalization of U.S. properties. This law included a compensation mechanism in accordance with what was and still is international practice in the case of nationalization, which are "lump sum" agreements. The U.S. government assumed the responsibility to its citizens whose properties were nationalized, and on their behalf established a direct compensation mechanism with the Cuban government. The formula established in the law foresaw the creation of a fund out of which, in the course of several years, the compensations would be paid, and it was based on the existence of stable trade relations between the two countries, in particular the sale of sugar, which was Cuba's main export item and the one which best characterized the history of trade relations between the two countries.
The U.S. government refused to accept that formula, and even to discuss with Cuba the terms for compensation, even though the Cuban government stated on several occasions its willingness to negotiate even the terms laid down in Law No. 851. That is the historical truth that the U.S. government is trying to cover up today. Its purpose was solely and exclusively to break all economic and commercial ties with Cuba, and every link between the two peoples, not to achieve suitable compensation for the former property owners, to whom it had that responsibility.
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RECOGNIZED THE LEGITIMACY OF CUBAN NATIONALIZATION
What happened to the rest of the property owners from other countries who were subject to nationalization?
Well, their respective governments looked for solutions. Each one sat down at some moment to negotiate mutually acceptable formulas with Cuba. In this way, for example, agreements were signed with Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Spain and France. In every case, except one, full compensation has been paid.
What antecedents exist in international law in other countries, including the United States itself, concerning nationalization within sovereign territory?
There are various instruments on the international level which recognize the right of a sovereign state to nationalize goods and properties in the public interest. For instance, it is included in diverse United Nations resolutions and has also been the subject of abundant jurisprudence. In the case of the nationalization carried out by Mexico in 1938, prior to the creation of the United Nations, there was wide and well-documented recognition of the principle that a government has the right to nationalize, especially when the country is immersed in a process of political, economic and social transformation, such as the one experienced by Mexico and later by Cuba in the 1960s. In the United States itself, there was a Supreme Court decision which recognized the legitimacy of Cuban nationalization as a state action.
Of course, the concept of creating a process to compensate the nationalized property owners has always been included, and there have been various pronouncements on this in United Nations resolutions. Anyone studying the case would see that the formula for compensation foreseen by Cuba in Law No. 851 was in conformity with what was usually done at that moment in history and was even more benign for the property owners than other formulas used subsequently on an international level and which the United States has accepted.
U.S. government spokespersons have responded to the international rejection of the Helms-Burton Act by saying that opposing the law constitutes interference in the internal affairs of the United States, that it is the administration's duty to carry out the law, and that it is ready to make counter reprisals. What is your opinion of these criteria?
In the first place, it is cynical and at the same time comical that the U.S. government is protesting over what it considers interference in its internal affairs, when in fact it is opposition to a U.S. law aimed at limiting the sovereign rights of other states. This demonstrates absolute disrespect on the part of the United States or some of its politicians for other people's rights, and of course for the principal of equal sovereignty among states, on which the United Nations and coexistence among nations are based.
The administration may feel the desire or obligation to apply the law, but that will not save it from the responsibility of acting in violation of international law and provoking well-deserved international reactions, which sooner or later will force the United States to understand the cost of acting with so much disdain for others and so much irresponsibility toward others.
National and international criteria attribute the origin of the law to electoral concerns in Florida. Are you in agreement with this idea?
There is no doubt that electoral opportunism had a lot to do with this law's passage. It's hard to find anyone who seriously questions that. But the main thing I see is that this law is the result of a kind of manipulation which the U.S. government and its political structures have let themselves fall into, for electoral or whatever reasons. I'm sure that the vast majority of the U.S. public does not know the details of this law and what it implies. Not even the majority of the politicians and members of Congress in that country are fully aware of what lurks within that monstrous law.
Look at who is behind the law, what interests are at stake, the economic, political, moral or criminal records of its authors and promoters. I'm sure that there is nothing there which represents the real interests of U.S. foreign policy, of that country's most powerful circles and the essence of its economic and social life. The limited purposes sought in the law are those of that group which still wants to control the destiny of Cuba and its people. They are the interests of Mafia groups in south Florida which have managed, through cheap electoral politics, to manipulate U.S. policy toward Cuba.
[c] 1996. Latin American News Agency
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