The first nationalizations took place in Cuba when the Agrarian Reform was enacted, in May of 1959, and established compensation with 20-year government issued bonds.
Given the increase in U.S. imperial aggression and arrogance, many Cubans are being heard these days paraphrasing General Antonio Maceo, on the occasion of his historic statement in Mangos de Baraguá, in 1878, when responding to a surrender agreement known as the Zanjón Pact, he said, “No, we do not understand each other.” I agree with them, we cannot understand the U.S. government, for many reasons, among them because we make an effort to give words the interpretation they deserve.
In the Helms-Burton Act, the terms “confiscated property” and “confiscated assets” are used regularly. As Dr. Olga Miranda Bravo explains, these terms are in no way “similar to nationalization,” defined as an act by which a nation, in a legal process, can, for different reasons, order the appropriation of private properties and place them within the public treasury.”
The confiscation of assets is an accessory legal act, subsequent to the commission of a crime, which implies, in addition to a penalty, the restitution of property ill-gained, with no right to compensation.The Council of Ministers, in use of powers recognized by the Fundamental Law of the Republic, February 7, 1959 – broadly and specifically inspired by the 1940 Constitution – enacted Law No.15 on March 17, 1959, which ordered the confiscation, and consequent adjudication to the Cuban state, of assets owned by Fulgencio Batista and all those who collaborated with his dictatorship, recognized as responsible for multiple crimes, as set forth in the Code of Social Defense, in effect at that time.When the Helms-Burton Act refers in its section 302 of Title III to trafficking with property confiscated by the Cuban government, it is protecting the very criminals cited in Law 15/1959, whose assets were confiscated because they had committed crimes.
Nationalizations, as state acts, are based on a country’s sovereignty, and therefore every state is obliged to respect the independent right of all others to conduct such processes, which constitute acts of economic justice to benefit the entire people and, yes, do imply adequate compensation.
The first nationalizations took place in Cuba when the Agrarian Reform’s first law was enacted, and established compensation with 20-year government issued bonds which accrued 4.5% annual interest.
With regard to the Agrarian Reform, on June 29, 1959, the U.S. government delivered a diplomatic note to the Cuban government, stating that, in accordance with international law, the United States recognized that a state has the power to expropriate within its jurisdiction for public purposes, in the absence of contractual provisions or any other agreement to the contrary, however, this right must be accompanied by the corresponding obligation on the part of a state that this expropriation will entail the payment of “prompt, adequate, and effective compensation.”
The arrogant, interventionist note attempted to unilaterally establish the form in which compensation would be provided, as opposed to an indemnity agreed upon by the parties involved. Any such demand is invalid, given that the only right internationally recognized is “appropriate” payment, in accordance with laws in effect within the country of the government conducting a nationalization. Faced with his affront to the nation’s dignity and sovereignty, the Cuban government responded that such interference in the country’s internal affairs would not be accepted.
Always willing to discuss any such disagreement with the United States, on February 22, 1960, via a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the U.S. government, Cuba proposed reopening negotiations via diplomatic channels, on the basis of equality, as long as the “U.S. Congress did not adopt any measures of a unilateral nature to prejudice the outcome of the aforementioned negotiations, or that could cause damage to the economy of the Cuban people.”