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

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I hadn’t actually heard of Cory Booker’s proposed reparations. I did hear about him in relation to Joe Biden. I think CB’s remarks on inequalities are spot on (now that you have kindly drawn my attention to him). Inequality of wealth and opportunity is an enormous problem in the USA and in the world as a whole.
    I have to say that I do find that those whose antecedents made their money on the back of slavery accusing a Spanish Hotel Chain of wrongdoing seems somewhat hypocritical. But as I said, these guys have the financial clout to be able to speculate in this way. All successful Capitalists know that you need to speculate to accumulate. Maybe it will pay off for them and this speculation will result in a profit.
    I agree that Capitalism has it’s faults. And would certainly agree that both Communism and Socialism do too. Don’t even get me started on Theocracies……………
    I find it very curious that polls have shown that the majority of those Russians who are old enough to remember the Communist era, say it was preferable to the current era.
    I find their opinions to very interesting and they are not in agreement with yours regarding the respective flaws of the isms you mention.

  • Have you been paying attention to Cory Booker’s proposed reparations Nick? Because Americans live in a democracy, it is possible to propose such action. Under a communist regime no such opportunity exists as justice as the free world knows it, is reserved for the PCC. Can you imagine the descendants of the Cuban slaves being permitted to make such a proposal, let alone pursue it? Capitalism has its faults, but those are far exceeded by those of communism (now described as “socialism”).

  • Global warming is upon us. Read the Ends of the World by Peter Brannen, it is a sobering book.

  • Well said!

  • There’s a whole bunch of descendants of the slaves exploited by the Sanchez Hills – why don’t they sue ??
    The likes of Sanchez Hills can afford the legal fees for these speculative cases.
    Most people don’t have this possibility.
    In a capitalist system justice will often be secondary to excessive wealth.

  • Hear hear Martin.

  • In ecological restoration, it used to be so simple–return the land to its natural state. Then people started to argue over which time period really represented the natural state, and then about what a natural state even means. The same can be said of reparations–how can a family, or a company, say they owned land that was stolen from them, when they most likely took the land from someone initially, or ran their company and their estate with slave labor? And how can this be the basis for a lawsuit? If we suggested to the same people supporting the Helms Burton act that Native Americans might sue the US Gov’t for reparation or to reclaim their land, those same people would laugh it off as sour grapes. Suck it up and move on.

  • Do you wear a hat made from aluminum foil? Jus’ checking. These doomsday predictions are always so amusing.

  • Capitalists are living in a dreamland. In 11 years the carbon footprint of human beings will reach to a point of no return. Catastrophic environmental event will displace millions of people. In 20-30 years the only way for human race to survive will be working together, leaving all personal possession goals behind, in a way not so different from communism. The days of your ideas are numbered.

  • I am sure Trump wanted to build a hotel in Cuba. POS that he is.

  • Yes and where did Sanchez Hill get the land from? And they? Etc Ultimately taken from the Taino. I’d love to see the US sued. Dose of their own gd medicine..

  • When you stayed at that Melia Hotel, were you aware Rev. Ronald Clifford, that the staff are not paid by Melia, but by the actual owners, Cubanacan, one of 57 subsidiaries of GAESA the military holding company, and that the hotel is only managed by Melia? It isn’t far from your imagined “heaven” to the misery of Cubans existing on $25 US per month – meaning that when you gave a tip (I assume the attendants in heaven were rewarded) one CUC equaled a day’s pay.

  • We stole the land from native Americans. Perhaps US government should be sued as well.
    What about Jews in Europe? Killed, properties stolen !? Or other ex socialist European countries- they did nationalize private properties as well. Let’s sue them as well.
    Lawsuits So American.

  • I don’t like Trump and his policies but I don’t feel sorry for Melia as well. They know exactly what is going on in Cuba still they have no problem doing business with the military dictatorship making money over the backs of the common Cubans using stolen property. I always avoided their hotels. Sue the shit out off them!

  • Stayed at a Melia hotel for a weekend during a 2 week vacation in Havana. It was heaven!

  • Las cuentas clara’s y El chocolate a La Espanola ?

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