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Judge: Cruise companies engaged in tourism to Cuba barred by US law

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A federal judge ruled on Monday that cruise companies Carnival, Norwegian, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean engaged in tourism to Cuba while it was barred by the U.S.

Judge Beth Bloom said the trips, which occurred while travel to Cuba for tourism was banned by U.S. law between 2015 to 2019, did not fall within permitted travel categories, The Associated Press reported.

She said that while cruise lines were given licenses by the federal government to take Americans to Cuba, they were not allowed to be used for tourism, per the AP.

“The fact that OFAC [The Office of Foreign Assets Control] promulgated licenses for traveling to Cuba, and executive branch officials, including the president, encouraged defendants to do so, does not automatically immunize defendants from liability if they engaged in statutorily prohibited tourism,” Bloom said, according to the wire service.

The judge also ruled that the companies must pay the descendants of a U.S. businessman for using a Havana terminal that was taken from him after the Cuban revolution, the AP reported.

The case was brought by the company Havana Docks, whose president, Mickael Behn, is the grandson of a businessman, William C. Behn, who had three of his docks confiscated in 1960, according to the AP. Havana Docks is seeking about $9.2 million. 

According to court documents, the cruise companies gave millionaire contracts to the Cuban government for the use of the terminal as well as four tours, per the wire service.

From trips with stops in Cuba, the companies made over $1.1 billion, according to court documents, the AP noted.

The judge said the case could go on to trial to determine monetary damages, according to the wire service.

Carnival told The Hill it would not comment due to the case involving multiple companies.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The Hill has reached out to the rest of the cruise companies for comment.

Updated 4:35 p.m.

Tags Cuba Cuban Revolution Cuba–United States relations Economy of Cuba Havana MSC Cruises Royal Caribbean Tourism in Cuba

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