A view of Tallapiedra thermoelectric plant, former part of Cuban Electric Company, which was nationalized after Fidel Castro's rebels came to power in 1959, in Havana on Dec. 8. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

HAVANA -- U.S. companies and individuals whose properties were seized by Fidel Castro in the early years of his Cuban Revolution have been waiting to get paid for decades. They've had little hope of seeing their losses compensated.

But on Tuesday in Havana, U.S. and Cuban officials began discussing the nearly 6,000 U.S. claims for seized properties, which the U.S. Department of Justice valued at $1.9 billion in 1972.

[In major breakthrough, Cuba and U.S. discuss $1.9 billion in property claims]

The issue is a key hurdle in the process of normalizing relations between the long-estranged countries. Cuba asserts counter-claims of its own, citing damages from a half-century of U.S. trade sanctions, and the loss of life and property caused by attacks like the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. In all, Cuba says its claims add up to more than $1 trillion.

The 50 largest U.S. claims account for more than three-quarters of the total — estimated at $8 billion if interest is included. Most are corporate, not individual claims. The largest, the Cuban Electric Company, was Havana’s major power utility at the time it was seized, and the majority of its shares today belong to Office Depot.

Here’s a list of the largest U.S. claims.

Name of claimant / Amount of loss certified ($)
Cuban Electric Company*: 267,568,414
North American Sugar Industries, Inc.: 97,373,415
MOA Bay Mining Company: 88,349,000
United Fruit Sugar Company: 85,100,147
West Indies Sugar Corp.: 84,880,958
American Sugar Company: 81,011,240
ITT as Trustee: 80,002,794
Exxon Corporation: 71,611,003
The Francisco Sugar Company: 52,643,438
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.: 51,128,927
International Telephone and Telegraph Co.: 50,676,964
Texaco, Inc.: 50,081,110
Manati Sugar Company: 48,587,848
Bangor Punta Corporation: 39,078,905
Nicaro Nickel Company: 33,014,083
The Coca-Cola Company: 27,526,239
Lone Star Cement Company: 24,881,287
The New Tuinucu Sugar Company: 23,336,080
Colgate-Palmolive: 14,507,935
Braga Brothers, Inc.: 12,612,873

* This claim is owned by Office Depot.

Source: Latin America Initiative at Brookings

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