United States

Heir to Cuban Airline Wants Compensation After Historic Pact

Cuba and the United States have signed an agreement that would allow commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in over 50 years but one family isn't too happy about the pact, saying they were the majority shareholders of Cuba's state airline before Fidel Castro took over and they want to be compensated.

Jose Ramon Lopez says he has been waiting patiently for 57 years. He says he's the heir and majority owner of the Cuban state airline, Cubana De Aviacion.

Lopez said his father was the majority owner of both the airline and Jose Marti National Airport before it was seized by Castro's Communist government.
"The Cuban government and the United States signed a joint agreement in Havana allowing for commercial flights."

With the historic agreement in place, Lopez argues that he owns the rights to Cubana De Aviacion and Jose Marti Airport, and that the Cuban government owes him money if they start operating in the United States.

"It's not their planes. The company belongs to Jose Ramon Lopez, who in federal court of the United States was declared the heir to La Cubana Aviacion," Cuban expert Andy Gomez said.

With the federal probate decision, if the Cuban planes land on U.S. soil, Lopez could possibly put in a claim to try and seize those planes as his property. Published reports on negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba mention that President Obama can't prevent these planes from being seized by the U.S. courts.

Lopez said he was never compensated. In 1954 Pan American Airlines sold its minority stake, making Lopez's father the majority shareholder. He even has the documents to prove it, including a title that his father bought the airline and airport in 1952.

"Now that he hears that his family, his company is going to be used by the Cuban government to possibly fly to the United States in the future, what rights do they have vis a vis his rights," Gomez said.

Right now the civil aviation agreement will only allow U.S. carriers to start flying between the two countries sometime in the fall. While there are no immediate plans for Cuban-operated airlines, Lopez said he plans to keep his legal battle going to get his company back.

This may be the first of many claims as normalization between the two countries continue.

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