Sunday, January 10, 2010

Claims Swap in Cuba? Interesting...

My friend Tim Ashby, a fellow member of the U.S. Cuba Legal Forum, is in the forefront of the effort to both normalize trade relations with Cuba while still helping those whose properties were illegally expropriated by the Castro regime find justice.  He was quoted a bunch in this article regarding a group of foreign investors which is seeking a U.S. government license to
buy claims against Cuba for American-owned properties seized in the
1960s, and then swap them with Havana in a debt-for-equity exchange.  The link:

Article On Cuban Claims Proposal

This kind of stuff isn't necessarily sexy, but it IS brilliant.  Since the early 90's  I have said that the best way for Cuba to settle it expropriation claims is simple: repay those whose properties were illegally taken with "units" of ownership in raw Cuban land which is ripe for development.  Hundreds of miles of pristine beachfront encircle the island and if the Cuban government were to carve out select sections while preserving major tracts as national parks, there would be A) more than enough compensation identified to settle all post-Castro claims and, perhaps more importantly, B) structure a long term land use plan for the most spectacular chunk or real estate in the Caribbean -- I know I'm biased, but it honestly is -- while creating a sense of investment, entrepreneurship...and reintegration by the Cuban diaspora.

Hardliners in Miami will tell that isn't viable: they want their exact house back, period.  To me, the solution of throwing out the 40-year squatters - who didn't do the expropriating out -- so that I can get my dad's property's back is absurd, selfish, and cruel.  But, admittedly, I'm a softie.  Besides, after meeting the guy who has lived in the house we left in 1966 and the three families at our Mi Conuco ranch (where four generations of Latours were taught to ride horses by my father, the late, great Pepe Latour), and having gotten the warm reception I'd never expected...it is out of the question.  Scoring a bottle of Chivas and drinking it with the 70 year olds while toasting my papi Pepe and hearing of his legendary exploits was as good as owning it again...I own the memories, they grow the black beans, and I am welcome anytime.

Hats off to Tim for his efforts and may the door to my beautiful birthplace be open to all Americans soon.



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