Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



The recent warming of relations between the United States and Cuba offered generations of Cubans; Americans; and Cuban Americans renewed hope for normalized relations. One obstacle—satisfactory resolution of property claims—stands in the way; which dates back to the Cuban government’s nationalization of all U.S. assets on the island. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (the “Helms-Burton Act”) predicates resolution of these decades-old property claims by the Cuban government as an essential condition for the full resumption of economic and diplomatic relations between the two neighbors. Separated by only ninety miles of Caribbean Sea; but more than a century of geopolitical tension; the United States; through the Helms-Burton Act; also demands a sweeping transition to a democratic form of governance in Cuba. This puts the cart before the horse. Three pieces of scholarship form the bedrock of existing analysis on claims resolution; but; pegged in many ways to the rhetoric of the Helms-Burton Act; all three proposals suffer from major flaws: under-inclusivity; ex parte valuations; and fidelity to official U.S. policy prescriptions. This Note argues for a new three-tier claims settlement framework; including restitution; bilateral trade agreements; and direct compensation. An inclusive settlement process (that considers the positions and interests of all parties) is a prerequisite to the sustained warming of economic and diplomatic relations; which in turn might catalyze movement towards the various freedoms and rights guaranteed in a democratic society.