Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines now holds the dubious distinction of being the first U.S. company sued for trafficking in stolen property in Cuba. By paying the Castro regime to dock at ports in Havana stolen by the Cuban dictatorship at gunpoint, they are literally trafficking in stolen property. Carnival is not the only cruise line doing this, for certain, but they are the first to face legal action for this unlawful conduct.
For a company that was built in the heart of the Cuban exile community, which for decades has fought against tyranny in Cuba, one can almost say this unsavory achievement is well deserved.
Carnival Cruise Lines is using port facilities that were stolen when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro took power, a pair of Cuban Americans alleged Thursday in historic lawsuits.
“Words cannot explain how I feel at this moment,” Javier Garcia-Bengochea, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement accompanying the court documents. “For the first time in 59 years, an American victim of theft by the Castro regime can stand before you, legitimately assert their property rights, and seek damages from those who are benefiting from something that was stolen from them.”
Garcia-Bengochea filed his suit alongside Michael Behn, who brought a separate suit in the name of Havana Docks Company. They argue that Carnival, which has been offering cruises to Cuba since 2016 as part of then-President Barack Obama’s normalization of ties with Havana, is profiting from two port facilities that the regime seized from their families.
“In 1960, the Castro brothers and their Communist Party friends forcefully stole our property from my grandfather — at gunpoint in his office,” plaintiff Mickael Behn said in his statement. “That was the business his father built in 1917 to supply and modernize Havana. For years, the cruise lines have been using our Havana Docks Port infrastructure without any consequence. This is absolutely reprehensible.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last month that Title III of the Libertad Act, also known as the Helms-Burton law, would take full effect for the first time on May 2. Cuba hawks hope the lawsuits will drive international investors away from the island, thereby depriving the regime of revenue.
“In addition to being newly vulnerable to lawsuits, they could be abetting the Cuban regime’s abuses of its own people,” said Pompeo. “Those doing business in Cuba should fully investigate whether they are connected to property stolen in service of a failed communist experiment. I encourage our friends and allies alike to likewise follow our lead and stand with the Cuban people.”
A lawyer for Carnival countered that the cruises were authorized by the Treasury Department during the Obama administration.
How the courts will view this accusation remains to be seen and only time will tell if the lawsuit will have success or fail. But the one thing we do know for sure is that Carnival Cruise is indeed trafficking in stolen property. The only real question is if the courts will allow them to get away with it or hold them liable.