Helms-Burton Act


Helms-Burton Act

The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton Act, USPL|104|114, USStat|110|785, USC|22|6021|6091) is a United States federal law which strengthens and continues the United States embargo against Cuba. The act extended the territorial application of the initial embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalized foreign companies allegedly "trafficking" in property formerly owned by U.S. citizens but expropriated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution. The act also covers property formerly owned by Cubans who have since become U.S. citizens. [http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp98/rp98-114.pdf]

The Act is named for its original sponsors, Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana.

The law was passed on March 12, 1996 by the 104th United States Congress. The bill, which had been tabled in late 1995 after Senator Helms was unable to overcome several Democratic filibusters, was reintroduced prompted by an episode that happened a month earlier. On February 24, 1996, Cuban fighter jets shot down two private planes operated by a Miami based anti-Castro Cuban refugee support group called Brothers to the Rescue ("Hermanos al Rescate"). [http://www.cnn.com/US/9602/cuba_shootdown/26/3pm/] [http://www.cnn.com/US/9602/cuba_shootdown/27/] .

Content

This law includes a wide variety of provisions intended to bring about "a peaceful transition to a representative democracy and market economy in Cuba":
* International Sanctions against the Cuban Government. Economic embargo, any non-US company that deals economically with Cuba can be subjected to legal action and that company's leadership can be barred from entry into the United States. Sanctions may be applied to non-U.S. companies trading with Cuba. This means that internationally operating companies have to choose between Cuba and the US, which is a much larger market.
* United States opposition against Cuban membership in International Financial Institutions.
* Television broadcasting from the United States to Cuba.
* Authorization of United States support for "democratic and human rights groups" and international observers.
* Declares United States policy towards a "transition government" and a "democratically elected government" in Cuba.
* Protection of property rights of certain United States nationals.
* Exclusion of certain aliens from the United States, primarily senior officials or major stock holders, and their families, of companies that do business in Cuba on property expropriated from American citizens. To date, executives from Italy, Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom have been barred.
* Provides power to the Legislative Branch to override an Executive Branch cancellation of the embargo.
* Prohibits recognition of a transitional government in Cuba that includes Fidel or Raúl Castro
* Prohibits recognition of a Cuban government that has not provided compensation for U.S. certified claims against confiscated property, defined as non-residential property with an excess of $50,000 value in 1959.

Reactions

The Helms-Burton Act was condemned by the Council of Europe, the European Union, Britain, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and other U.S. allies that enjoy normal trade relations with Cuba. The governments argued that the law ran counter to the spirit of international law and sovereignty.

After a complaint by the European Union with the World Trade Organization, a dispute settlement panel was established. Later, the work of the panel was suspended to find a solution through negotiations. After a year, the panel lost its jurisdiction over the matter, and the EU did not pursue the matter any further before the WTO.

The law has also been condemned by humanitarian groupsWho|date=August 2008 because these groups argue that sanctions against an entire country will affect only the innocent population.Fact|date=August 2008

The law provides for compensation of only the largest of claims for confiscated property, primarily only the claims of large multinational companies (valued at roughly $6 billion), and fails to provide for the claims of individuals with confiscated personal residences of the exiled Cuban-American community.

The European Union introduced a [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996R2271:EN:HTML Council Regulation (No 2271/96)] (law binding all member states) declaring the extra-territorial provisions of the Helms-Burton Act to be unenforceable within the EU, and permitting recovery of any damages imposed under it. The EU law also applied sanctions against US companies and their executives for making Title III complaints.

The United Kingdom had previously introduced provisions by [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1992/Uksi_19922449_en_1.htm statutory instrument] extending its Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980 (originally passed in the wake of extra-territorial claims by the U.S. in the 1970s) to United States rules on trade with Cuba. United Kingdom law was later extended to counter-act the Helms-Burton Act as well. This included criminal sanctions for complying with certain provisions of the Helms-Burton Act whilst in the UK (see [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1996/Uksi_19963171_en_1.htm statutory instrument] ).

Mexico passed a law in October 1996 aimed at neutralizing the Helms-Burton Act. The law provides for a fine of 2.2 million pesos, or $280,254, against anyone who while in Mexican territory obeys another country's laws aimed at reducing Mexican trade or foreign investment in a third country.

Similarly, Canada passed a law to counteract the effect of Helms-Burton, as well as having put forward (but not passing) a bill that satirized Burton-Helms by demanding recompense for United Empire Loyalists and proposing similar travel restrictions on those "trafficking" in property confiscated during the American Revolution.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both signed a provision allowing for a waiver of the law. Though, effective May 10, 1999, with CFR Title 31 Part 515 the act was amended and is presently being enforced.

The following are laws that were passed in different countries to counteract the effects of Helms-Burton:
* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/35/2/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-54/C-54_4/C-54TOCE.html Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act] of Canada
* Law of Protection of Commerce and Investments from Foreign Policies that Contravene International Law of Mexico

References

ee also

* Godfrey-Milliken Bill
* Cuba-United States relations
* [http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/ar/us-cuba/libertad.htm Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act (full text)]


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