Cuban government is suing Expedia for trafficking with seized property

HAVANA, sept. 27th A Cuban-American heir to a house on Varadero beach that was confiscated by the Cuban government and then demolished to build a hotel has sued Expedia on Friday for “trafficking with stolen property.”

The lawsuit, filed in the federal court of Miami under the Helms-Burton Act, is the first one involving the use of real state and could set a precedent to follow for thousands of Cubans who lost their homes after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

According to the lawsuit, Diego Trinidad’s parents’ house was facing the sea, in the famous resort of Varadero, between streets 72 and 73, where the Barceló Solimar hotel is currently located. The plaintiff’s parents fled Cuba in 1960, and the Castro government confiscated the house. In the 1990s, the government built a hotel where Trinidad’s and nearby homes had been.

Trinidad accuses Expedia of “unlawful trafficking” with its property as the travel site offered reservations at the hotel without providing compensation. Since Expedia did not stop its activities in the 30 days after being notified, Trinidad is asking for triple damages.

An Expedia search from the United States indicates that the site no longer offers the possibility to make reservations at that hotel.

The Spanish hotel chain Barceló runs the hotel. The company was notified but has not been included in the lawsuit at the moment, said the lawyer for the plaintiff, Andrés Rivero, of the Rivero Mestre law firm in Miami.

Expedia was sued in another case also represented by Rivero, on behalf of the heirs of a hotel that was confiscated by the Cuban government and that is being managed by the Spanish chain Melia.

The lawsuit filed on Friday does not clarify whether the house in Varadero was confiscated before or after the departure of the Trinidad family. In the early years of the revolution, many left the island in what they thought would be a temporary situation. In most cases, the government then confiscated those properties.

The government also seized the homes of those wanting to emigrate as a precondition for authorizing their departure, a practice used until recent years.

The right to sue for compensation for property confiscated in Cuba, established in Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, was authorized for the first time in May of this year by President Donald Trump. Since then, claimants have been filing lawsuits against hotels, cruise and travel companies, airlines and banks, among others, accused of benefiting from business with properties “stolen” by the Cuban government.
(miamiherald.com)