After a gap of nearly eight months, the United States and Cuba returned to the negotiating table this week on claims that both sides have against each other and entered a more “substantive” phase of discussions, a senior State Department official said Friday.
Both sides presented more details of their claims — far higher on the Cuban side than the American side — and discussed methods they had both used in settling claims with other countries during a meeting Thursday in Washington D.C.
“The U.S. delegation expressed its desire to resolve the claims as quickly as possible, and we indicated that we were willing to dedicate a substantial amount of time and energy towards trying to get to resolution,” the official said.
The two sides had their first meeting on claims last December in Havana. The official said both sides expressed interest in meeting more frequently and in resolving their claims in a “mutually satisfactory manner.” The next meeting will be held in Havana, but no date has been set.
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The United States is seeking a settlement on more than $1.9 billion, now around $8 billion including interest, in certified claims for the seized property of U.S. citizens and corporations.
The United States is seeking a settlement on more than $1.9 billion, now around $8 billion including interest, in certified claims for the seized property of U.S. citizens and corporations. It also has put on the table a much smaller amount of U.S. government claims totaling $100 million to $200 million and about $2.2 billion in unsatisfied U.S. court judgments against the Cubans.
All told, there are 5,913 certified claims for sugar mills, cattle ranches, utilities, corporate holdings, homes, and other items.
But Cuba claims the United States also owes it billions in reparations for the economic damage caused by the embargo as well as damages resulting from events such as the Bay of Pigs invasion (176 deaths and more than 300 Cubans wounded), the 1976 bombing that killed all 73 passengers of Cubana de Aviacion flight 455, and deadly U.S.-sponsored incursions on the island.
The U.S. official said the Cuban side outlined Cuban court judgments in which the United States was found liable for human and economic damages. Cuba is seeking human damages of $181 billion and $121 billion for damages related to the embargo. But the official indicated both totals could go higher.
The Cuban government also wants to negotiate on an unspecified amount of blocked assets.
When the United States normalized relations with Vietnam, claims were resolved in a bilateral agreement providing for a lump sum payment.
But at this stage in the negotiations with Cuba, there is no preference for a lump sum, payments over time, or another solution. With the long and complicated history between the United States and Cuba and with the embargo still in effect, “it’s not clear there’s an absolutely comparable situation,” said the official.