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U.S. shifts Cuba policy to allow lawsuits against foreign companies

OTTAWA — The Trump administration says it will now allow lawsuits against foreign companies connected to properties seized from American firms during the Cuban revolution  — including Canadian businesses.

The landmark tightening of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba’s communist government represents a major shift in U.S. foreign policy — one that now could place Canadian mining, tourism and financial services companies at risk in American courts.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the decision, which takes effect May 3, is rooted in Cuba’s backing of “oppression” through its ongoing support of Venezuela’s socialist government of Nicolas Maduro.

Canada, its Lima Group allies and the U.S. have called for Maduro’s ouster and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim leader of the beleaguered South American country, which has been engulfed in economic and political turmoil, sparking a refugee crisis.

But Canada and its European allies have pushed the Trump administration to continue to suspend use of the dormant Title III section of the 1996 Helms Burton Act that allows Americans to sue foreign companies linked to Cuban properties confiscated after its 1959 revolution.

About one million Canadians annually vacation in Cuba and Toronto-based resource company Sherritt International is long established there, while countries such as Britain, France and Spain have companies active in rum, cigars and tourism.

The Canadian Press