American government officials are in talks with Cuba in Havana in an attempt to take back the US citizen’s assets confiscated after Cuba’s revolution decades ago. The talks may lead to further easing of economic sanctions on the communist island, because Cuba says it might unlock the properties if the United States ends its trade embargo.
When Castro declared victory in 1959, many Americans were forced to flee their homes and give up their land. Fidel Castro, angered by the US secrete plans to thwart his communist revolution, seized their lands. Now, for the first time, Cuba has agreed to meet to consider settling those issues.
The New York Times reports that nearly 6,000 people and corporations lost homes, farms, factories, sugar mills and other properties totaling US$1.9 billion. But some analysts put the total value of the property at $7 billion.
“The meeting is the first step in what we expect to be a long and complex process, but the United States views the resolution of outstanding claims as a top priority for normalization,” said the US government in a statement. “The reestablishment of diplomatic relations allows us to more effectively represent U.S. interests and values in Cuba and strengthen our ties with the Cuban people.”
The issue had long been a stumbling block to the re-establishment of relations between the neighbors. Even while restoring diplomatic relations last year, Obama administration said vaguely that property claims would be on the long list of issues to be taken up in bilateral talks.
Mary McLeod, Acting Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State, leads the U.S. delegation. “This initial meeting will allow the two sides to exchange information on a wide variety of claims,” stated the US government, without elaborating.