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United States signals it may toughen stance on Cuban lawsuits provision

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WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Wednesday shortened the U.S. government’s customary waiver of legislation that would allow Cuban Americans to sue foreign companies in Cuba, indicating it could allow the 23-year-old law to take effect for the first time.

The legislation, which allows Cuban Americans to sue foreign companies in Cuba using properties seized from them by the Cuban government after the 1959 revolution, was suspended for just 45 days, instead of the customary six months.

The so-called Title III rule forms part of the Helms-Burton Act, which codified all U.S. sanctions against Cuba into law in 1996. It has been waived by various presidents ever since due to opposition from the international community and fears it could create chaos in the U.S. court system, analysts say.

If Title III went into effect, it could seriously dampen foreign investment that Cuba has been seeking to drum up to support its beleaguered state-dominated economy.

“This extension will permit us to conduct a careful review of the right to bring action under Title III in light of the national interests of the United States and efforts to expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We encourage any person doing business in Cuba to reconsider whether they are trafficking in confiscated property and abetting this dictatorship.”

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said the decision presented “a likelihood of an ominous commercial, economic and political landscape for the Republic of Cuba, European Union-member countries, and members of the World Trade Organization.”

“Once again, the Trump Administration has used weaponised potentiality to create uncertainty and, thus anxiety,” he said.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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