President Barack Obama notified Congress on Friday that he was suspending for six months a measure that would let any American whose property was seized in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 sue anyone of any nationality using the property today.
“I hereby determine and report to the Congress that suspension, for 6 months beyond August 1, 2012, of the right to bring an action under title III of the Act is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba,” Obama said in a letter to top lawmakers.
Obama’s announcement was not a surprise—every president since Bill Clinton has suspended that provision of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, better known as the Helms-Burton law. The legislation empowers presidents to waive that section for six-month intervals. Critics of the law have warned that allowing such lawsuits could pit Americans against individuals and entities from countries that are allied with the United States but who do not respect the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba.