In Cuba, Carnival Cruise Ships Have Been Using Stolen Ports, Original Owners Say

In Cuba, Carnival Cruise Ships Have Been Using Stolen Ports, Original Owners Say

Both of the lawsuits against Carnival were filed by Roberto Martínez, a former United States Attorney in Miami who has won enormous verdicts against the Cuban government in a variety of cases, including a $188 million wrongful death suit over the four people who were killed when the Brothers to the Rescue planes were downed. Frozen Cuban assets in the United States were used to pay some of those awards.

Mr. Martínez said his clients had been preparing for years and were more than ready to file suit on the first day they could.

“Their family businesses were destroyed, stolen by the Castro government, and these American companies were put on notice for many years that they were using properties that were stolen, and they did nothing about it,” he said. “They miscalculated the decision that it was worth doing business and ignoring the pleas not to use stolen properties, and now they are basically going to court and having to deal with the consequences of that risk.”

He said the law stipulates that former property owners can seek triple the value of the property as compensation, and the property can be valued several different ways. The Havana Dock Co. has a claim certified by a United States commission saying that its property was worth $9.1 million in 1960; under the law, it could be awarded three times that amount, plus interest, or three times the current fair market value.

The other plaintiff is Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, Fla., whose family owned port facilities in Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern part of the island.

Dr. Garcia-Bengochea has spent years writing to Carnival, sending letters to the editors of newspapers and going public in any way he could about his family’s claim, which he said was more about principle than money.

He was 15 months old when his family fled the island, he said, and has seen the confiscated property just once, when he traveled to Cuba in the late 1990s.

“You grow up raised under a certain shadow or cloud of the culture and a country that you left,” Dr. Garcia-Bengochea said. “The enduring symbol of that, the physical symbol of that, is the property you lost.”

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