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US to Allow Lawsuits Over Cuba Property Confiscation

FILE - This March 20, 2015, photo shows a house that used to belong to U.S. citizen Daniel Smith in the Isle of Pines, Cuba. The property was confiscated by the Cuban government after the revolution.

President Donald Trump will open the way for lawsuits in U.S. courts over property confiscated by Cuba, enforcing a controversial law that had been waived for more than two decades, an official said Tuesday.

In allowing a key section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act to take effect, Trump is moving ahead with a provision that had been waived by successive presidents mindful of the international consequences.

National security advisor John Bolton will formally unveil the shift on Wednesday when he heads to Miami to address expatriates from Cuba as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua, two other countries in Latin America with leftist governments opposed by Trump.

Bolton "will announce the enforcement of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act," a senior administration official said.

Under the 1996 law, Cuban exiles will be allowed to head to U.S. courts to sue both private companies and the Havana government for profiting from properties nationalized after Fidel Castro's 1959 communist revolution.

When it was initially passed, the law had been strongly opposed by the European Union, whose businesses have long-standing interests on the island and worried about the legal repercussions in US courts.

But Trump has been shifting sharply back to the former U.S. effort of trying to weaken the Cuban government.

His predecessor, Barack Obama, normalized relations with Cuba, eased travel restrictions for Americans and himself visited Havana, saying that a half-century of US efforts to topple the regime had failed.

Trump has also been pushing for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a leftist firebrand who presides over a crumbling economy that has sparked a massive exodus.

The 1996 law - named for far-right Republican senator Jesse Helms and congressman Dan Burton - was approved by Congress after Cuba in 1996 shot down two aircraft flown by exiled activists, putting an end to tentative efforts by then president Bill Clinton to try to repair relations.