US threat looms over foreign firms trading with Cuba

3rd March, 2019 10:46:53 printer

HAVANA: US President Donald Trump’s administration is brandishing the threat of sanctions against foreign companies “trafficking” with Cuba, a move hitherto mothballed by Washington so as not to offend allies.

The White House has broken with two decades of precedent in threatening to activate Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which extended the US embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, reports AFP.

The European Union is Cuba’s largest foreign investor and will watch with interest as the countdown to Trump’s March 17 deadline to activate new sanctions against Cuba approaches.

Title III specifically penalizes foreign companies allegedly “trafficking” property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime under Fidel Castro but previously belonged to US nationals or Cuban immigrants to the US.

Although the Helms-Burton Act was signed in 1996, Title III was been systematically suspended every six months to prevent discord between the US and key partners, including the EU.

But that may come to an end as earlier this year, Trump fixed a 45-day suspension from February 1 that expires on March 17.

“I think the Trump administration is trying to create confusion… to scare off investment in Cuba,” the European Union’s ambassador to Havana, Alberto Navarro told AFP.