Renewed Optimism for Cuban Property Claims

There is some renewed optimism among those with claims against the Cuban government for properties that were taken years ago. (Published Friday, March 18, 2016)

There is some renewed optimism among those who have claims against the Cuban government for properties that were taken in many cases decades ago ahead of President Obama's historic trip to the Communist nation.

"Ironically, it may open up some opportunities and we need to be prepared to capitalize on those," said Nick Gutierrez Jr., whose family owned property in Cuba.

Gutierrez was huddling with international lawyers and in good spirits over the possibility that the ranch his father owned before Fidel Castro came to power might actually not be a lost cause after all.

His family and others in South Florida, who for decades came up empty when it came to what the Castro regime confiscated, may have an opening during this time of the historic Obama trip.

The possible scenario - dealing directly with investors who want to use the property - not the Cuban government.

"Foreign investors don't want to go into Cuba unless and until they have the consent of the legitimate owner. This might be a way the owners can receive compensation and the foreign investors would feel more comfortable," Gutierrez said.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor and the point man at the White House on Cuba, recently told NBC 6 the property claims are part of the ongoing dialogue with Havana.

"Every individual claim matters to us in that process," he said. "Well this is an issue we take very seriously...The U.S. government does not let up on those issues and intend to carry that through until we see a restitution and see a resolution of claims."

There are over 5,000 certified claims worth about $8 billion. This new idea to deal directly with those who want to use the buildings, businesses, and lands would prevent from settling for pennies on the dollars. The owners could end up getting market value.

"At this point the investors have been foreign but the investors may soon be American as the Obama opening continues to proceed," Gutierrez said.

The property owners would like to separate this concept from the Cuban government's claims about what the U.S. owes it for the embargo. It still has a way to go but all of this is in the forefront as the President will be on the ground in Havana Sunday.

Regardless of what many of these property owners think about Obama going this could be a real silver lining for them and that part about not negotiating with the Cuban government is a big deal. The Cubans could treat these as any property deal.