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What’s the connection between a Nebraska law school and Cuba? The answer: a $750,000 grant that the school was awarded to conduct research for setting up a property-claims tribunal in Cuba once Fidel Castro is no longer ruling. Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb., may not have any direct link to Cuba, but the subject matter matched the faculty’s interests. The dean of the law school, Patrick Borchers, is a conflict of laws scholar, and the school specializes in international law, which led them to apply for the grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cuban democracy program. “We answered the grant proposal and they gave us the green light on it,” Borchers said. “Part of it is that [we have] a lot of people with interest in international law . . . and we have top-flight resources for alternative dispute-resolutions.” Borchers said that the school also has an extensive legal studies program in the Dominican Republic, which is close in proximity to Cuba. Borchers will lead a team including the chair and a professor of the university’s political science department, the director of the law school’s Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution, an international law professor at the school, and a Latin American specialist from the University of Iowa. They already have a “small army” of Creighton law students ready to begin working, Borchers said, and will be hiring graduate students in the university’s political science department to help. The project consists of creating a model for a future bilateral claims tribunal in Cuba after Castro dies for those whose property was confiscated following his assumption of power in 1959. “Our goal is to propose something that a future U.S. and Cuban government would like to buy into,” Borchers said. “If in a post-Castro Cuba, the new Cuban government became interested in paying claims for expropriated property, what would be the fairest and best mechanism for creating such a tribunal, who should be on it, what law ought to be applied, and what procedures ought to go into this?” The law school dean said they were basing some of their research on the Iranian and U.S. claim tribunal set up after the early 1980s to handle Iranian claims out of frozen U.S. assets. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, a federal judicial agency that handles claims of U.S. citizens against foreign governments, evaluated claims from corporations who lost property in Cuba between 1964 and 1972, certifying around 5,900 claims, worth more than $6 billion today. Claimants include Texaco and United Fruit, Borchers said.

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