Posted on Mon, Aug. 28, 2006
No rush to judgment
OUR OPINION: PROPERTY CLAIMS AN ISSUE FOR A FUTURE CUBA GOVERNMENT
Revived interest in claims for property confiscated in Cuba is
understandable given the renewed hope for ending Cuba's tyranny. People
whose firms and holdings were expropriated may have meritorious claims.
Yet any remedy for such claims will be a long time coming. Ultimately
the rules for property claims and compensation will be determined by a
future democratic Cuban government.
More important now is to lay the groundwork for an orderly transition to
such a Cuban government. One critical step is to counter the propaganda
drilled into Cubans on the island for decades: the fear that exiles will
return to kick people out of homes. The truth is that most Cuban
Americans wouldn't dream of taking anything from people who already have
suffered so much under communism.
To make a property claim, there has to be some kind of transition
government in place -- and there's no sign of one yet. The recent report
by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba emphasized that the U.S.
priority will be to provide humanitarian assistance, such as food and
medicine, once a transition government requests help. The United States
would also ''reassure the Cuban people'' that the U.S. government will
not support any arbitrary effort to evict them from their homes.
A U.S. government registry lists 5,911 claims, most of them from the
1960s, by U.S. citizens for confiscated property totaling $1.8 billion.
It will be the job of a future Cuban government to decide how to resolve
those claims, as well as any other claims that Cubans inside and outside
the island might have. The decisions likely will be tied to economic
policy and the need for foreign investment. For many, the issue will be
charged with emotion -- as is usually the case when reconciling
grievances and rebuilding a nation.