RT: How will claims by US companies be handled in the light of America’s historic policy towards Cuba?
Gloria La Riva: The Cuban revolution of 1959 meant that the property, land, factories, the means of production, the wealth of Cuba belongs to the Cuban people now. We should remember US history… when the US had its revolution, the American Revolution, they didn’t compensate or pay the British for what they had taken back. And the same goes for Cuba. President Raul Castro just gave a speech at the National Assembly on December 20 in which he reminded the world that Cuba has a socialist system and for those who have illusions about people being able to take over the property and the wealth of Cuba – that is not going to happen, that it will remain a socialist country albeit with the economic changes that are underway in Cuba.
RT: Is Cuba capable of paying off the many to American companies?
GLR: The American companies and individuals who owned enormous amounts of wealth in Cuba including all the utilities, railroads, a vast majority of the sugarcane fields and mills, the land of Cuba – so much property that rendered the population extremely poor. They won’t return to those days. I’ve been to Cuba many times, I’ve seen what used to be owned by the US or by private owners: the yachts, the land, there is a huge beachside, huge amounts of property that the DuPonts owned. Cuban beaches that Cubans were not even allowed to be on.
They will not return to those days. The US blockade exists in full force. What is needed in terms of relations between the US and Cuba is respect for Cuba’s sovereignty, and independence, and the ownership of its wealth which is for the benefit of all the Cuban population. What the American owners, the corporations and landholders owned in Cuba was stolen wealth, and that is not going to be returned to them.
RT: Why are the companies still being quiet about their claims?GLR: I think there is a great interest among American corporations whether it is tourism, or industry or even agriculture which would like very much to invest in Cuba. Then there are those who have property in Cuba, who insist in being able to take it back. But if Cuba were to concede to that demand, many people would become homeless, people would lose their land, the farmland that now feeds the Cuban people and used also for exports. They cannot return to those days.
And so the question of US businesses and individuals wanting to do business in Cuba – Cuba would welcome them on equal basis with contracts, that Cuba will determine if they are favorable to the Cuban economy. But the obstacles to that is the US blockade, and the obstacle to Cuba being able to fully enjoy its economic wealth and productive capacity is in its ability to sell its goods to the US too. The larger question on the economy is what US economic, commerce, and finance has to do with the need to eliminate the US blockade of Cuba which greatly hinders Cuba’s ability to develop more fully.
RT: Will the US listen to Cuba’s demands to repay damages for the half century embargo?
GLR: It is hard for me to surmise what Cuba will be deciding. The future in these coming weeks, months, perhaps years will be hopefully how the relations can be normalized economically, how the Cuban government can engage in contracts of commerce, of trade, of investments – if that be the case – with US corporations. Already Cuba enjoys many relations economically, commercially, financially with many countries and many corporations around the world, other than the US.
In addition, much of what Cuba claims is billions and billions of dollars, and is the money that the US has frozen in Cuban assets whether it was property in the US or, for example, the income that comes from telephone communications between the two countries. That money has been stolen from Cuba. So Cuba has a great deal to claim against US corporations and the US government. And I think what the Cuban government is saying …: “Let’s engage in mutual, respectful negotiations and dialogue on how to resolve the many economic problems and disputes.” Cuba is willing to discuss everything on the table but only on the basis of mutual respect toward unraveling and breaking down that wall which is the US blockade.
US corporations may say that they have claims on Cuban property, but Cuba is a sovereign country. The US from the 1800’s until the Cuban revolution of 1959 basically stole the land…
RT: What, in your opinion, would be the outcome if the relations between the US and Cuba normalize?GLR: If the relations are normalized and the US blockade is ended I think both peoples will benefit greatly, most of all Cuba, because Cuba is a country that is blockaded, unable to trade normally with the world because the US blockade imposes its means and sanctions on other countries and other corporations. But the American people will benefit as well. Because there is medicine that Cuba produces that the American people could benefit from, there is a need for jobs, and employment from the stimulated economy in the US and trade with Cuba. The end of these hostile relations imposed by the US government and the need for our peoples to get to know each other more, I think that there is a vast majority of Americans who would love to travel to Cuba and learn about its society from which we had been prohibited for too many years.
RT: What are your thoughts on those Americans who lost their property after the revolution in Cuba?
GLR: US corporations and former landowners in Cuba have been demanding for 50 years the return of property to them. But those American corporations gained that wealth through theft and an invasion of Cuba in 1898. From that invasion the US corporations and US government had extremely favorable exploitative relationship with the Cuban people. That is why the vast amount of wealth in Cuba belonged to American corporations and the US government. The revolution brought things back to the Cuban people of which they benefited greatly. Cuba also has claims against the US of $1.2 trillion of damages, distraction of the economy, and the illegality of the US blockade. So Cuba is quite willing, as I’ve said, over and over to engage in mutually respectful negotiations on all disputes: whether economic, political, or social. But it has to be on the basis of mutual respect. The Cuban government has insisted [that] it will remain a socialist society and economy.