Lawsuit against U.S. 'aggression' begins in Cuba
July 7, 1999
From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
HAVANA (CNN) -- Showing wounds they allegedly suffered at the hands of U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries or sharing the grief of losing loved ones in the early years of the Communist insurrection, the first of some 100 witnesses have begun testifying in a multibillion-dollar Cuban lawsuit against the United States.
Cuba has accused the United States of causing the deaths of 3,478 Cubans since the beginning of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. It is demanding more than $180 billion in damages for what it calls a "systematic and brutal aggression" promoted and financed by Washington, beginning with the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and continuing through the bombing of several Havana hotels in 1997.
The one-sided trial opened Monday at the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of Cuba's communist government, and is expected to conclude on July 22. The U.S. government refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the lawsuit, calling it purely political.
However, some U.S. lawyers attending the trial on their own believe Cuba has a valid argument.
"I think it's a legitimate complaint under international law. Unfortunately, the sad thing is that international law is not observed very much these days," said U.S. lawyer William Schaap.
The Cuban lawsuit was filed soon after a U.S. federal judge ordered Cuba to pay $187 million to the families of three U.S. pilots killed when Cuban fighter jets shot down their planes off the Cuban coast. A federal court has frozen revenues owed by U.S. telephone companies for collect calls to Cuba until Havana pays the judgment.
Though most observers expect Cuba to win its court case, it's unlikely any money will ever be paid, since Washington is highly unlikely to make any payment and there are no U.S. assets in Cuba that can be frozen or seized.
Courtroom is latest U.S.-Cuban battleground
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