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US, Cuba to Hold First Claims Talks in Havana


FILE - People sit outside the building which used to house a Coca-Cola bottling plant before the 1959 revolution in Havana.

FILE - People sit outside the building which used to house a Coca-Cola bottling plant before the 1959 revolution in Havana.

As the United States and Cuba work to complete a long and complicated process of normalization, first government-to-government talks on property claims will be held in Havana on Tuesday.

“The meeting is the first step in what we expect to be a long and complex process, but the United States views the resolution of outstanding claims as a top priority for normalization,” said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby on Monday.

A focal point of the talks is the return of property belonging to U.S. businesses that was seized after the Cuban revolution in 1959. That property is estimated to be worth at least $7 billion, in today’s value, said William LeoGrande, a Latin American affairs professor at American University.

“Most of these companies don’t really want their property back,” said LeoGrande. “They would just like to have an opportunity to do business again in Cuba,” he added.

FILE - Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro signs decree nationalizing all American-owned banks in Cuba, Sept. 17, 1960.

FILE - Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro signs decree nationalizing all American-owned banks in Cuba, Sept. 17, 1960.

In a VOA interview he said, Coca-Cola, for example, doesn’t really want to re-possess an old bottling plant from 1950, but would rather go into Cuba and build new bottling plants.

LeoGrande said the Cuban government would prefer to link talks on U.S. claims to its calls to have the U.S. trade embargo against the island lifted. “The two issues are very much tied up together,” he said.

He predicted the process could go on for an extended period because of the lack of movement from the U.S. Congress on lifting the trade embargo against Cuba.

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