UK condemns US move to sue foreign companies over Cuba sanctions

A man rides a bicitaxi at the street in Havana, on April 17, 2019. (AFP photo)

Britain has condemned the new attempt by the administration of US President Donald Trump to require foreign companies to abide by American sanctions on Cuba that have been rejected by the UK and other European countries.

“The extraterritorial application of ... sanctions, which we consider to be illegal under international law, threaten to harm UK and EU companies doing legitimate business in Cuba by exposing them to liability in US courts,” Britain’s foreign office said in a statement on Thursday.

“We will work alongside the EU to protect the interests of our companies,” the statement added.

The European Union and Canada have already warned of reprisals over the new extraterritorial measure by the US.

The Trump administration announced on Wednesday it was allowing US citizens to file lawsuits against foreign companies for purchasing property seized by Cuba that was formerly owned by US citizens, who are primarily Cuban-Americans.

The 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro resulted in the largest expropriation of US assets ever, according to Washington-based attorney Robert Muse.

The US law that allows these lawsuits, the Helms-Burton Act, has been fully waived by every US president since it was passed 23 years ago due to opposition from the international community and fears it could create chaos in US courts.

However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that Washington will end the routine wavers to the 1996 on May 2 and allow for lawsuits to proceed.

Pompeo also announced new US sanctions and other punitive measures against Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Havana to end its support for Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

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