Sanctions and embargos against dictatorships do work and are necessary. This is so for practical, strategical, and moral reasons. Arguably, the biggest heist of United States property in history, $8 billion worth in current value consisting of approximately 6,000 American citizens and companies, was executed by Cuban communism.
For the Cuban nationals that were ripped off by the 1959 communist takeover, the numbers of victims were far greater. According to Cuban writer, Carlos Alberto Montaner, in a 2015 article analyzing the cost of Cuba’s socialist revolution put the total figure at roughly 2,055,214 establishments including homes, businesses, farms/ranches, and factories. Considering that Cuba’s population in 1959 was 6,000,500 inhabitants, the per capita theft was immense. Finally, thanks to the Trump Administration’s activating Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (“Liberty Act”, a/k/a Helms-Burton) for the first time since the law’s enactment in 1996, a claim was paid out to afflicted Cuban American litigants.
Title III, one of the four sections of the Liberty Act, allows Americans and Cuban Americans to seek in United States courts, indemnification for trafficked properties which were seized by the Cuban Marxists on or after January 1, 1959. In October 2020, the Claflin family (heirs and estates) sued LafargeHolcim, a Swiss multinational building materials manufacturing company. LafargeHolcim made the mistake of venturing into a business deal with Cuba’s dictatorship in 2000. The “Carlos Marx” cement plant, a renamed and rehashed confiscated family business that belonged to the Clafins.
Originally and lawfully known as the “Compañía Azucarera Soledad” (Soledad Property), the closely held corporation was involved in the sugar business, as well as in cattle raising and dairy farming in the Province of Las Villas. The Soledad Property, pirated by the Castro regime on August 6th, 1960, included a sugar mill, 31 miles of narrow-gauge railroad with steam locomotives, resting on more than 27,000 acres of prime land. The Swiss global giant decided to partner with Cuban communism, invested in the “Carlos Marx” cement plant and profited from this business venture on plundered land.
The Liberty Act clearly labeled this type of transaction as “trafficking.” The attorneys for the plaintiffs have claimed that prior to LafargeHolcim’s business decision of investment in communist Cuba in 2000, the Swiss multinational sought legal advice from a U. S. based law firm and was alerted to the fact that “investing in the cement plant without obtaining the authorization of the persons holding the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FSCS) certified claims, would subject it to liability under the Helms-Burton Act.” Nonetheless, LafargeHolcim proceeded to traffic in stolen property.
On May 24th it became known that the Swiss company that consociated with the Cuban dictatorship had agreed to settle the case and pay the Claflin family an unknown indemnity figure. The petitioning Cuban family that had been pillaged by the socialist revolution had sought $240 million in damages. Considering the annual interest since the asset was usurped plus treble damages and attorney fees, the amount could be between $140 to $160 million. No quantifiable amount, however, can offset the outlandish cost of losing one’s country to communism.
Still, this is a victory for freedom, for property rights, and should serve as a deterrent to all that are contemplating entering into or maintaining an accomplice relationship with a brutal dictatorship.