Javier García-Bengochea, a successful neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, was just a baby when he left Cuba with his family, after Fidel Castro confiscated their businesses and properties in 1960 as part of a broad expropriation effort that triggered what was to become a six-decade U.S. embargo.
Several years later, two high-end apartment buildings in Havana’s exclusive Miramar and Alturas de Miramar neighborhoods, seized from his family, ended up as a profitable Airbnb rental and residence for American diplomats in Havana. García-Bengochea says both the American company and the U.S. State Department owe him money.
“At least State claims to serve our diplomatic corps. Airbnb is cynically hawking our stolen property purely for profit and in violation of U.S. law,” he said.
The Airbnb rental, described by guests as “beautiful,” “terrific,” “gorgeous,” and “classy” in a hundred enthusiastic reviews, is one of the six apartments in a building built by García-Bengochea’s family in 1939. It is located in a leafy, quiet area at Avenue 22 in Marianao, a Havana neighborhood. He inherited the claim to one-third of the land and building from one of his cousins, Alberto Parreño. Because Alberto was an American citizen at the time of the confiscation, his claim was recognized by the Department of Justice’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, which valued his loss at $66,666 in 1960 dollars.