Helms-Burton Act

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Following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the United States shifted its focus to Cuba with the intentions of freeing the country from its communist ideologies and establishing a democratic government. The U.S. government passed the Helms-Burton Act in an attempt to pressurize Cuba into restructuring. Its enactment was controversial, provoking immediate and widespread debate around the world as to whether certain provisions of the Act violated international law principles and treaties to which the United States was a party. Opposition to the Act came from most countries outside of the United States. Many nations attempted to counter the Helms-Burton Act by implementing legislation that enabled their own citizens to take actions that would defeat the purpose of the Act. Canada and Mexico were just two of the countries to take action against the Helms-Burton Act. This is a critical review of an article entitled The Helms-Burton Law and its Antidotes: A Classic Standoff? The article is co-authored by Jorge F. Pérez-López and Matias F. Travieso-Diaz, Esq. and discusses the essentials of the Helms-Burton Act, foreign criticisms, Helms-Burton antidotes, and implementations of the Act and its antidotes. It was published in the Spring 2000 volume of the SOUTHWESTERN JOURNAL OF LAW & TRADE IN THE AMERICAS. This critical review essay contains five sections. The first section will provide a summary of the Helms-Burton Act including a brief description of its four titles. The second section will discuss some of the foreign criticisms of the Act, specifically by the European Union. The third segment will discuss antidotes and implementations of the Act and will again focus on the EU. Section four will evaluate the law review article including the conclusions drawn by the co-authors of the article in review. The final section will discuss my conclusions after having read this article. II.SUMMARY OF THE LAW REVIEW ARTICLE

The United States Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act in March 1996 under the Clinton Administration. Its two main purposes were “to seek international sanctions against the Castro government in Cuba and to plan for support of a transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba.” The law in review includes a preamble, which consists of sections on findings, purposes, definitions, and severability, and four substantive titles of dissimilar content and focus: (1) Title I: Strengthening International Sanctions Against the Castro Government; (2) Title II: Assistance to a Free and Independent Cuba; (3) Title III: Protection of Property Rights of United States Nationals; and (4) Title IV: Exclusion of Certain Aliens. The definitions and severability sections of the preamble are beyond the scope of this paper and will not be discussed. 1.Preamble

The “Findings” section of the Preamble to the Helms-Burton Act includes 28 Congressional “findings” related to the situation in Cuba on and after 1996. These “findings” include “the dire economic conditions on the island, the refusal of the Castro government to permit free and fair elections and undertake political reforms, and the record of violations of human rights on the island.” The authors of the article focus on three findings from the preamble. First, the continued efforts by the United States, by both Democratic and Republican Administrations, to assist the people of Cuba have been effective in sanctioning the totalitarian Castro regime. Secondly, the Congress has consistently upheld its commitment to unity between the American people, the U.S. government and the democratic ambitions of the Cuban people. The third finding is that the President should continue encouraging foreign governments to assist with the transformation of the Cuban government. The “Purposes” section of the Preamble of the Helms-Burton Act contains six “purposes” of the...
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