WASHINGTON — Cuba must pay the United States six billion dollars in
compensation for expropriated businesses and property before Washington
lifts a decades-old trade embargo, a US lawmaker said Thursday.
"We must resolve the over six billion dollars in expropriation claims...
before developing a more robust economic relationship with a post-Castro
democratic government in Cuba," said Kevin Brady, a Republican US
representative from the state of Texas, speaking at a congressional
hearing on US trade with Cuba.
Brady's remarks come after a top Cuban official last week challenged the
United States to lift its punishing economic embargo against Havana.
Cuba's National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon pressed Washington to
"lift it, even for a year, to see whether it is in our interest or theirs."
After coming to power in 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro nationalized
numerous US enterprises in the name of the communist revolution.
In 1972, the value of Cuba's expropriated US property was estimated to
be worth about 1.8 billion dollars, according to a US government panel
that examined the issue.
That sum has grown more than three-fold over the years because of
compounding interest, set at an annual rate of six percent.
The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States (FCSC),
the independent, quasi-judicial federal agency under the aegis of the US
Department of Justice, is tasked with determining the monetary value of
claims by US nationals for loss of overseas property as a result of
nationalization or military operations.
At Thursday's hearing, the US Chamber of Commerce and non-governmental
organizations including the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
argued in favor of relaxing trade restrictions against Havana.
Brady said he was "open to loosening some restrictions on Cuba," but
only after the US government and private American interests divested of
their property after the revolution were compensated.
President Barack Obama came into office seeking better relations with
Cuba, but after an initial thaw, tensions have set in again, most
recently over Cuba's treatment of dissidents.