UC Law SF International Law Review


Since its April 1996 passage, the Helms-Burton Act has raised the controversial issue of prescriptive jurisdiction over foreign companies through domestic legislation. The Act has two stated purposes: first, to speed the replacement of the Castro regime with a democratic government in Cuba; and second, to protect the rights of U.S. nationals whose property was expropriated by the Cuban government. Titles I and II address the first stated goal by implementing certain restrictions on the executive office in its relations with and regarding Cuba. Titles IMI and IV address the second stated goal. Title III, in particular, garners the most controversy by granting any U.S. national with a claim for property confiscated by Cuba since 1959 to bring suit in U.S. courts against any person who "traffics" in such property. The legislative intent is to chill foreign investment in and trade with Cuba.

Professor Dodge offers a brief overview of the Helms- Burton Act and its foreign responses, and compares the controversy over Helms-Burton to the Fruehauf case of the mid-1960s and the Soviet Pipeline dispute of the early 1980s. Finally, the author uses the Act to illustrate the "transnational legal process" dynamic.