In a punitive move that is fueling an outcry among America’s closest allies, the Clinton administration on Wednesday barred seven Canadian business people and two Britons from U.S. soil for using Cuban properties claimed by U.S. citizens.
Ian Delaney, the outspoken chief executive of Sherritt International, a Toronto-based mining firm, and eight Sherritt corporate officers or board members received notice from the State Department that they, their spouses and minor children will be denied entry to the United States, department officials said.
The exclusion order, which gives executives 45 days to divest from Cuba before taking effect, is the administration’s first significant step to enforce the new Helms-Burton Act, a controversial law that was championed by Cuban exile leaders and overwhelmingly approved by Congress.
Even as the administration began to implement the law, a backlash loomed.
Officials from Canada and the European Union repeated threats to retaliate against the United States, and three of Canada’s largest Protestant denominations threatened to launch a boycott of Florida tourism unless President Clinton waives a key provision of the law affecting property rights.
State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns offered the administration’s defense.
“It is very tough action that we are taking today, but it is action that we believe must be taken to make the point to (Cuban President Fidel) Castro that 5,911 American citizens remain uncompensated for their property and their investment, their assets, the businesses that families and individuals built over generations in Cuba,” Burns said Wednesday.
“Do those people have rights?” Burns asked. “Should their rights be listened to by their government? The answer is yes.”
The Helms-Burton law, signed March 12 by Clinton in the wake of Cuba’s downing of two U.S. civilian airplanes, allows the original 5,911 claimants of property confiscated under the revolution and untold numbers of naturalized Cuban Americans to file lawsuits in federal court against foreigners who profit from their property.