In This Review

Cuba, the United States, and the Helms-Burton Doctrine: International Reactions
Cuba, the United States, and the Helms-Burton Doctrine: International Reactions
By Joaquin Roy
University Press of Florida, 2000, 328 pp

A useful analysis of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that examines both its origins and its international repercussions. By allowing U.S. citizens to sue foreign nationals for dealing in Cuban property confiscated by the Castro regime, Roy argues, the bill has allowed the Cuban-American lobby to turn a bilateral dispute into an international wrangle with many of Washington's staunchest traditional allies. Although the law's most provocative elements were neutralized by Clinton's subsequent suspension of some key provisions, it could still impose on a post-Castro Cuba conditions all too reminiscent of the past. Roy cites the role of New Jersey Representative Robert Menendez in helping formulate the Act's Title II, which legislates a blueprint for a new Cuba by imposing standards as to how Cubans "should go about governing themselves if they are ever to see the embargo lifted." In effect, Roy says, this is a reborn Platt amendment -- the notorious assertion of extraterritorial power that gave the United States the right to interfere in Cuba unilaterally after the island won independence from Spain. Helms-Burton not only isolates the United States, Roy concludes, but confirms suspicions that U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War has become subordinate to the promotion of narrow commercial and ethnic interests.