Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea can only sit and watch as Airbnb rents out apartments to tourists and American diplomats in Cuba that were stolen by the communist Castro dictatorship from his family.
Castro confiscated his apartments in Cuba. American diplomats and now tourists stay in them
Javier García-Bengochea, a successful neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, was just a baby when he left Cuba with his family, after Fidel Castro confiscated their businesses and properties in 1960 as part of a broad expropriation effort that triggered what was to become a six-decade U.S. embargo.
Several years later, two high-end apartment buildings in Havana’s exclusive Miramar and Alturas de Miramar neighborhoods, seized from his family, ended up as a profitable Airbnb rental and residence for American diplomats in Havana. García-Bengochea says both the American company and the U.S. State Department owe him money.
“At least State claims to serve our diplomatic corps. Airbnb is cynically hawking our stolen property purely for profit and in violation of U.S. law,” he said.
The Airbnb rental, described by guests as “beautiful,” “terrific,” “gorgeous” and “classy” in a hundred enthusiastic reviews, is one of the six apartments in a building built by García-Bengochea’s family in 1939. It is located in a leafy, quiet area at Avenue 33 in Marianao, a Havana neighborhood. He inherited the claim to one-third of the land and building from one of his cousins, Alberto Parreño. Because Alberto was an American citizen at the time of the confiscation, his claim was recognized by the Department of Justice’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, which valued his loss at $66,666 in 1960 dollars.
García-Bengochea detailed his claim in a letter he sent to Airbnb in August 2019 in which he quoted a section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that prohibits companies from engaging “in a commercial activity using or otherwise benefiting from confiscated property … or profits from trafficking by another person.”
The company never replied to him, he said. It continues booking the apartment at $107 a day. According to guest reviews, the apartment has been advertised on Airbnb at least since February 2017. The neurosurgeon said that Airbnb has also listed other apartments in the same building over the years.
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