Crime & Justice

US judge rules against cruise lines in case over Cuba embargo

Miami, Mar 22 (EFE).- Four cruise lines that carried passengers from the United States to Cuba over four years when such voyages were permitted are liable to lawsuits from the former owners of port facilities in Havana nationalized in 1960, a federal judge in Miami ruled.

“By using the Terminal and one of its piers in various ways, Carnival, MSC SA, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian committed trafficking acts,” US District Judge Beth Bloom said.

The decision clears the way for a jury trial on a lawsuit brought by Havana Docks, which had the concession to run the capital port at the time of nationalization.

That suit is one of dozens filed under Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which allows plaintiffs to sue both foreign and Cuban companies who profit from properties confiscated after the 1959 revolution in the Caribbean nation.

Implementation of Title III was suspended every six months by the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

But in May 2019, then-President Donald Trump allowed Title III to take effect as part of his intensification of sanctions against the Communist-ruled island.

Bloom had previously accepted contentions from Havana Docks that the four cruise lines earned $1.1 billion from voyages to Cuba during the 2015-2019 period when they were permitted, and that the firms disbursed $138 million to Cuban government entities.

The judge rejected the companies’ argument that their cruises to Cuba were permissible in line with the Obama administration’s partial normalization of relations with Havana.

Bloom, however, concluded that the firms’ did not confine their services to the 12 designated categories, engaging instead in tourism activities that remained prohibited in accord with the economic embargo that Washington imposed on Cuba in 1962.

The Helms-Burton Act includes a provision requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to end the embargo.

With Bloom’s ruling, the four cruise lines must now decide whether to seek to end the lawsuit by offering a settlement or having the case go before a jury in Miami, home to a large and influential Cuban exile community. EFE lce/dr

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