10:31 GMT06 May 2021
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    Protests took place near Hyde Park following news that US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil opened lawsuits against the Republic of Cuba in early May to extort millions of dollars, with the Trump administration launching fresh attacks against the socialist state through financial means.

    Will Harney, writer for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! explained on the anniversary of Cuba’s 26 July liberation movement how the lawsuit intends to increase pressure on Cuba, as well as the history behind the illegal economic blockade on Cuba.

    SPUTNIK: ExxonMobil has brought its lawsuits worth $280m against two Cuban state-owned enterprises. What is the legal justification behind them and what is politically motivating this corporation to sue the Cuban government?

    Will Harney: There’s no real legal justification and the lawsuits are based on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act 1996, which was partially suspended after being passed.

    However, the Trump administration lifted the suspension in May this year, with Title III allowing US individuals and companies to sue Cuban enterprises in federal courts, as well as anyone that ‘traffics’ property nationalised by Cuba after the country’s armed struggle in 1959 against former Cuban President and US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

    Individuals and companies claiming to have property confiscated by Havana, either owned or supposedly inherited, would be permitted by the US to take legal action against Cuba and those trading with the Cuban state.

    ExxonMobil (Esso in the UK) launched lawsuits on 3 May against two Cuban state-owned oil companies for using refineries and other assets previously owned by Standard Oil, Exxon’s predecessor, that are now under Cuban state control.

    Between gaining independence from Spain in 1898 and the armed struggle against Batista in 1959, Cuba was effectively colonised by the US and ruled by several corrupt governments and US-backed dictatorships. Oil facilities were operated to enrich wealthy owners of US corporations like Standard Oil, but after capitalism was overthrown in Cuba, these were nationalised and held commonly by Cubans under socialism.

    Cuba does not recognise US Federal court lawsuits against its state enterprises, as it is a violation of its national sovereignty and show of imperial arrogance that the US officials should pass laws on Cuba’s resources, government and civil society as the Helms-Burton Act does. It not only contains provisions for such lawsuits, but also for regime change in favour of restoring US political control over Cuba.

    SPUTNIK: What should the average reader know about former US president John F Kennedy's role in the Helms-Burton Act?

    Will Harney: The blockade against Cuba, where the US severely restricts Havana’s foreign trade and has cost the Caribbean nation $133bn over roughly 60 years, according to UN officials, was expanded not just under the Kennedy administration by presidential decree from 1961 to 1963, but under subsequent administrations as well.

    The Act, named after US politicians Jesse Helms and Dan Burton, codified the blockade into law and made it the case that the blockade could not be overturned simply by a President’s signature, but must be voted on by Congress.’

    Title III faced sharp condemnation from European countries as it would affect their trade with Cuba, and to avoid a diplomatic crisis, US officials agreed to suspend Title III every six months.

    But as rivalry between the US and European Union has intensified, the Trump administration decided to lift the suspensions despite protests from the EU, which has blocking regulations in place intended to protect European companies from Helms-Burton lawsuits—likely the reason no companies based outside the US or Cuba have been sued to date.

    SPUTNIK: Are there any international laws that grant nations the right to self-determination, including the nationalisation of corporate assets from other countries? In which cases is this possible?

    Will Harney: To my understanding, there are many precedence of countries nationalising foreign-owned industries provided they compensate the former owners, including UN Resolution 1803.

    Cuba itself did reach compensation agreements with nations such as the UK, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain and others for properties nationalised by the Cuban state.

    Assuming the Cuban revolution would be short-lived, the US refused talks on compensation from Havana, instead choosing the path of war by attempting to suppress Cuba’s revolutionary by any means. 60 years later, they are falsely demanding compensation to push the Cuban economy into crisis, with Title III being used to increase the already considerable legal and financial risk to companies investing in Cuba.

    Article 1 of the UN Charter upholds the “principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”, but this principle is regularly flouted by the world's richest nations such as the US, Britain and the EU.

    The wealth of these nations depends on their ability to plunder and exploit other nations. We see that war, terrorism, assassinations, coups, political interference and ecological ruin are utilised by imperialism to defend the interests of capital.

    SPUTNIK: Why is your organisation campaigning or highlighting this case? What kind of responses have you received from onlookers or participants?

    Will Harney: Our organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Group, has fought in solidarity with socialist Cuba for decades, in particular through our ‘Rock Around the Blockade’ campaign.

    We hold Cuba up as an exemplary society leading the way to help construct socialism, and report on the country in every issue of our newspaper to show that any attack on the country must be equated as an attack on the working class and struggle for socialism internationally.

    We have led past campaigns against Bacardi Rum for sponsoring anti-Cuban propaganda and terrorism, as well as helping to draft the Helms-Burton act. PayPal had also confiscated money raised for Cuba solidarity movements as an extraterritorial application of the blockade.

    We will expose and oppose any individual or company operating in the UK attempting to sue the Cuban state, and encourage others to do so. We also recognise Cuba’s efforts in leading the world in sustainable development during our times of environmental crisis, as well as their struggle against ExxonMobil, a a company that spent $16m between 1998-2005 funding climate change denial lobby groups which attempted to cast doubt on the links between fossil fuels and climate change.

    Public reactions have also been nearly uniformly supportive, and the real challenge is not to persuade but inform others. Most are shocked after learning about Cuba’s achievement or the devastating US blockade, namely due to mainstream media’s de facto blackout. The same class interests behind the Helms-Burton lawsuit are also behind the indifference in mainstream media that refuse to report on it.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    United Nations Security Council, United Nations, Havana, ExxonMobil, communism, socialism, Donald Trump, Latin America, US sanctions, law, Helms-Burton Act, US Congress, Cuba
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