In Defense of American Property Rights in Foreign Nations

Thank you liberty warrior and Texas-based blogger Silvio Canto, Jr. for producing a show on the defense of property rights of American citizens who have had property unlawfully confiscated by foreign governments. I’ve had the pleasure of being on Silvio’s show several times. He covers a lot of topics of interest to persons who follow U.S. politics, but also happenings throughout the Western Hemisphere. This latest podcast is embedded at the end of this post. Be sure to subscribe to his show.

On this show, we focused on the close to $10 billion Communist Cuba owes American families and businesses for uncompensated land grabs dating to the 1960s. When Americans buy or invest in property in foreign nations be it a home, land, or business, foreign governments have a legal obligation under international law to compensate the owner if the property is expropriated or otherwise confiscated.

The United States is one of the few nations in the world that strongly defends the property rights of its nationals. It is not a perfect system, however, when an American company or individual invests in a foreign nation foreign governments understand that there could be serious negative repercussions from interfering with the property rights of American citizens.

Economic sanctions, visa sanctions, negative publicity, litigation, and Congressional scrutiny but a few of the tools the United States could deploy against foreign governments for meddling with American property rights. Of course Cuba is not the only nation that has meddled with U.S. property rights and tried to get away without paying.

After the 1959 communist takeover of Cuba, the Cuban government targeted in a variety of ways American citizens and others opposed to the socialist revolution. The regime’s property confiscation scheme resulted in thousands of American citizens and countless Cuban nationals losing their residences, businesses, and other forms of personal and real property. It was the largest ever ideologically driven confiscation of U.S. property in the Western Hemisphere and likely anywhere in the world. According to a Member of Congress in 1980, Cuba unlawfully confiscated more property than all of the confiscations by Communist nations combined.

Cuba’s war on private property, as was the case throughout the Eastern Bloc nations, was ideologically driven. Cuban officials believed then, as some still do today, that it was an essential purging of ideological “worms” (their word) in order to create a socialist paradise on earth. It was woven into the very fabric of their movement. A review of Cuba’s Gaceta Official (Cuba’s version of the U.S. Federal Register) for that period includes legal and policy statements linking property confiscation as a tool to right decades of Yankee imperialism in Cuba and throughout Latin America.

Cuba can do whatever it wants to do within its own borders; however, they must also be held to account for what it did to U.S. taxpayers. Most of their arguments against the United States are specious. What they also fail to tell you is that no sooner did they kick America out, the Soviets moved in. The Castro brothers had a distorted view of history and were master public opinion manipulators. They also help bring the world to the brink of nuclear conflict and, for that, there is no free pass. More on this in future blog posts.

Secretary of State Pompeo is the first Secretary of State since the end of the Cold War who has decided to do more than pay lip service to defending property rights of American citizens. Among other things, he announced on January 16, 2019, that the U.S. government is evaluating whether Title III of the Helms-Burton of 1996 Cuba sanctions law would be waived in 45 days or recommend to President Trump that Americans be allowed to defend property rights in U.S. federal court. Secretary Pompeo’s decision is expected by March 2nd.

If Title III is not waived, American citizens and others may sue in U.S. federal court for trafficking in confiscated properties in Cuba. Foreign companies doing business in Cuba, or any person subject to U.S. law which may be considering Cuba-related transactions, should familiarize themselves with this matter. Even if Title III enforcement is waived again, there is legal exposure for anyone doing business in Cuba on properties that are the subject of a certified claim and potentially other claims.

How the U.S. claims against Cuba are resolved will impact U.S. and international law well into the future. It will also signal to autocrats the world over that, sooner or later, Americans will be made whole and they should think twice before unlawfully confiscating private property. These are some of the topics discussed in the attached podcast.