THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
From the outset of my Administration, I have been committed to a bipartisan policy that promotes a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. Consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act and with the efforts of my predecessors, I have maintained a tough economic embargo on the Cuban regime while supporting the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom and prosperity. Often, the United States has stood alone in that struggle, because our allies and friends believed that pressuring Cuba to change was the wrong way to go.
Five months ago, the world was given a harsh lesson about why we need more pressure on Cuba. In broad daylight, and without justification, Cuban military jets shot down two unarmed American civilian aircraft over international waters, taking the lives of four American citizens and residents. I took immediate steps to demonstrate my determination to foster change in Cuba -- including the signing into law of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, which strengthens the embargo, advances the cause of freedom in Cuba, and protects the interests of American citizens whose property was expropriated by the Cuban regime. And I called on the international community to condemn Cuba's actions.
Now the time has come for our allies and friends to do more -- to join us in taking concrete steps to promote democracy in Cuba. That is why today, I am announcing a course of action on Title III of the LIBERTAD Act to encourage our allies to work with us and accelerate change in Cuba.
Title III allows U.S. nationals to sue foreign companies that profit from American-owned property confiscated by the Cuban regime. The law also provides me with the authority to suspend the date on which Title III enters into force, or the date on which U.S. nationals can bring suit, if I determine that suspension is necessary to the national interests and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba. I have decided to use the authority provided by Congress to maximize Title III's effectiveness in encouraging our allies to work with us to promote democracy in Cuba.
I will allow Title III to come into force. As a result, all companies doing business in Cuba are hereby on notice that by trafficking in expropriated American property, they face the prospect of lawsuits and significant liability in the United States. This will serve as a deterrent to such trafficking -- one of the central goals of the LIBERTAD Act.
At the same time, I am suspending the right to file suit for six months. During that period, my Administration will work to build support from the international community on a series of steps to promote democracy in Cuba. These steps include: increasing pressure on the regime to open up politically and economically; supporting forces for change on the island; withholding foreign assistance to Cuba; and promoting business practices that will help bring democracy to the Cuban workplace.
At the end of that period, I will determine whether to end the suspension, in whole or in part, based upon whether others have joined us in promoting democracy in Cuba. Our allies and friends will have a strong incentive to make real progress because, with Title III in effect, liability will be established irreversibly during the suspension period and suits could be brought immediately when the suspension is lifted. And for that very same reason, foreign companies will have a strong incentive to immediately cease trafficking in expropriated property -- the only sure way to avoid future lawsuits.
Our allies and foreign business partners know from our actions over the past four months that my Administration is determined to vigorously implement the LIBERTAD Act. For example, Title IV of the Act bars from the United States individuals who profit from property confiscated from American citizens. My Administration has already begun to notify several foreign nationals that they could no longer enter the United States. Rather than face this prospect, a significant number of foreign companies already has chosen to leave Cuba, thereby reducing the flow of resources the regime uses to maintain its grip on power.
Today's action is the best way to achieve the bipartisan objectives we all share: to isolate the Cuban government and to bring strong international pressure to bear on Cuba's leaders, while holding out the very real prospect of fully implementing Title III in the event it becomes necessary. By working with our allies -- not against them -- we will avoid a split that the Cuban regime will be sure to exploit. Forging an international consensus will avert commercial disputes that would harm American workers and business and cost us jobs here at home. And it will help maintain our leadership authority in international organizations.
We will work with our allies when we can. But they must understand that for countries and foreign companies that take advantage of expropriated property the choice is clear: They can cease profiting from such property. They can join our efforts to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba. Or they can face the risk of full implementation of Title III. As our allies know from our implementation of other provisions of the bill over the last four months, my Administration takes this responsibility seriously.
For the past four decades Republican and Democratic administrations alike have worked for the transition to democracy of the last non-democratic regime in our hemisphere. This is a cause the international community should be prepared to embrace. As implemented under today's decision, Title III of the LIBERTAD Act provides us with powerful leverage to build a stronger international coalition for democracy in Cuba if possible -- and with a powerful tool to lead that struggle alone if necessary. This is in the best interests of our country, and in the best interests of the Cuban people.
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