As Trump Allows Cuba Lawsuits, Young Lawyer Sees Vindication

By Jonathan Levin

Javier Lopez has spent hundreds of hours interviewing Cuban exiles and meticulously building cases for families who lost property after the 1959 revolution. He’s pored over obscure legal papers, Spanish-language newspaper articles and, in one case, a century-old parchment deed. Then, he stashed the suits in his computer: No court would hear them, and he couldn’t bill a cent.

On Thursday, the cases can come out again.

For the first time, the Trump administration will allow lawsuits in U.S. courts against firms operating on seized Cuban property, including multinational corporations based in Canada and Europe, which accounts for the island’s biggest source of foreign investment. In many cases, the companies entered the market decades after the land was expropriated, but they could be held accountable all the same.

Some Cuba watchers are projecting a flurry of legal activity, while foreign governments and corporations are preparing to defend billions in assets. The European Union and Canadian governments have jointly warned that suits could prompt them to complain to the World Trade Organisation. Among potential lawsuit targets are Swiss food company Nestle SA; Canadian miner Sherritt International Corp.; and Spanish hoteliers NH Hotel Group SA and Melia Hotels International SA, according to a list from the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Lopez, 39, has been waiting for this day for the better part of the past decade.

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