US threat looms over foreign firms trading with Cuba

HAVANA (AFP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump’s administration is brandishing the threat of sanctions against foreign companies “trafficking” with Cuba, a move hitherto mothballed by Washington so as not to offend allies.

The White House has broken with two decades of precedent in threatening to activate Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which extended the US embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba.

The European Union (EU) is Cuba’s largest foreign investor and will watch with interest as the countdown to Trump’s March 17 deadline to activate new sanctions against Cuba approaches.

Title III specifically penalises foreign companies allegedly “trafficking” property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime under Fidel Castro but previously belonged to US nationals or Cuban immigrants to the US.

Although the Helms-Burton Act was signed in 1996, Title III was been systematically suspended every six months to prevent discord between the US and key partners, including the EU.