Spanish Chain Melia Sued under Helms Burton over Cuba Hotels

By Mario J Penton

The Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – Descendants of former Cuban businessman Rafael Lucas Sanchez Hill have filed a lawsuit in Spain against the Melia hotel chain, reported dpa news.

The Sanchez Hills, who live in the United States, are seeking 10 million dollars as indemnification for Cuba lands seized by the government in 1960, after Fidel Castro seized control of the island.

The land is now the site of some hotels built by the Cuban armed forces and run by the Spanish hotel chain.

The Spanish newspaper El Confidencial reported that it was the first lawsuit ever filed in Spain by Cuban Americans against Spanish companies that benefit from expropriated properties in Cuba.

The lawsuit follows the Trump administration’s full implementation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act on May 2. The law allows owners of properties confiscated by the Castro Revolution to file suits in US courts against entities that “traffic” in those properties.

The Sanchez Hills and Melia had been negotiating for some time and had been close to reaching an agreement for 5 million dollars. But the hotel chain, believing that Title III was unlikely to ever be enacted, dropped its offer to 3,000 dollars and no agreement was reached. The lawsuit will be heard by Spanish courts, so it will not be covered by Title III.

The Sanchez Hill family fled to the US from Cuba after the government expropriated its Santa Lucia sugar mill near the eastern city of Holguin and surrounding lands totaling more than 100,000 acres

[40,460 hectares]. The patriarch of the family built the mill in 1857, after he moved to Holguin from Matanzas. But Law 890, signed in 1960 by then Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos, left them with nothing.

Enterprises owned by the Cuban armed forces have since built several hotels on that land, including the Melia Sol Rio de Luna y Mares, Paradisus Rio de Oro, Costa Verde and Playa Costa Verde, among others.

The lawsuit, filed in the city of Palma de Mallorca, demands indemnification equivalent to the benefits the family claims that the hotel chain received from its use of the land during the past five years, according to El Confidencial. It also criticizes the chain for its attitude on the claims against it.

“The illegal nature of this confiscation is known to Melia, which over the past 20 years has ignored the claims by those enterprises and families from which it benefits,” the lawsuit declares, according to the newspaper.

Melia is the foreign company that administers the most hotels in Cuba, at least 34 so far. Iberostar follows it with 20 hotels. Both companies have been strongly criticized by human rights groups and opponents of the Cuban regime because of the circumstances surrounding their investments on the island.

Until 2008, Cubans were barred from staying in tourist hotels, and the salaries of workers in the international hotels now barely stand at a few dozen dollars per month.

“Throughout these 31 years we have been clear: Our bet on Cuba is unconditional. We believe this is totally unfair, all these measures,” Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice president of Melia Hotels International, told Cuban government television after Title III was activated.

“Because of that, we will continue with our plan. We will continue collaborating closely with Cuban authorities in the development of the country’s tourist industry, which I believe is a model in every sense,” he added.

The company expects to have 38 hotels and more than 15,000 rooms on the island by 2020.

Escarrer visited the island with Reyes Maroto, Spain’s minister for industry, trade and tourism, who tried to reassure Spaniards who have invested in Cuba.

She said her government wants Spanish companies to continue investing in the island and contribute to its development. She criticized President Donald Trump but also urged the Cuban government to pay the 300 million dollars owed to Spanish enterprises.

20 thoughts on “Spanish Chain Melia Sued under Helms Burton over Cuba Hotels

  • June 25, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Cubanacan is not a subsidiary of GAESA. Some Melia hotels are Gaviota (which is GAESA), some are Cubanacan, some are Gran Caribe. If you want to see which are Gaviota look at the US State Dept’s “naughty list”.

  • June 22, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    As you obviously are not aware of the discussions in the US Congress about reparations for the descendants of slaves in the US Nick, I shall wait until you indicate that you are, before commenting further, because the implications for the democratic countries are substantial. The tittle tattle remarks about Biden are just that and of little significance.

  • June 21, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    As British people we have to consider all of the atrocities our forbears committed. This includes the legacy of slavery. This is an ongoing topic of conversation. It seems that every few months some unfit-for-the-job British leader is issuing an apology for some or other historical wrong doing. Given that none of my antecedents were aristocratic, land owners, slave traders or of the social class responsible for these crimes against humanity, I always say this to these apologetic politicians: Don’t presume to apologise on behalf of the UK as a whole. We don’t need to be apologetic for the sins of the aristocracy. It is the aristocracy who need to apologise for their own atrocities.
    What Cory does over the other side of the pond actually has little bearing to the British as (thus far) the US legal system holds no sway in the UK. Although the USA does seem to like to project its sometimes twisted version of legality into parts of the world where it has zero jurisdiction (helms burton is a prime example).
    I make the non dead cat reference to polls carried out in Russia only because it entirely refutes your version of the respective faults of Communim and Capitalism.
    Other than that, I don’t really see your point when you suggest I am not answering your question. The point I made about the descendants of the slaves exploited by the Sanchez Hill family not having the financial wherewithal to purse a case both answers and precedes your question. This would surely apply to the vast majority of those concerned regardless of whether they reside in Cuba, USA, Spain or elsewhere in this world.

  • June 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Time for you to catch up on Cory Booker’s view on reparations for the descendants of slaves Nick. That has much more significance than Booker’s view about who Biden worked with to achieve political results many years ago.
    If the proposal for reparations has success, the implications for other nations that practiced slavery are considerable. It could possible result for example in claims against the descendants of slave owners like the Bishop of Bristol and numerous UK families. I note that you failed to address the question I posed regarding Cuba, preferring to drag in the dead cat of Russians preferring communism to the autocracy of Putin.

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