The government of Cuban President Fidel Castro federalized some 6,000 businesses owned by Americans or Cuban nationals now living in the U.S. after it took control of the island nation in 1959.
The waived provision, contained in Title III of the act, was crafted to put pressure on foreign companies investing in Cuba.
President Bush said yesterday the waiver is “necessary for the national interest of the United States and will expedite the transition to democracy in Cuba.”
Mr. Bush’s decision comes as the final waiver of President Clinton’s term is set to expire.
Although the Helms-Burton act was signed into law in 1996, the lawsuit provision has never been applied. Mr. Clinton waived Title III throughout his second term.
Some see the move as a conciliatory gesture toward European Union, which has disputed the Helms-Burton Act saying it was an attempt by the United States to legislate beyond its borders.
European officials had threatened to file a complaint in the World Trade Organization if Bush had decided to enforce the law.
In an effort to temper opposition to the president’s decision, the White House Friday announced plans to tighten other sanctions against Cuba.
Mr. Bush said he would outlaw American tourism to Cuba and enforce limits on cash payments that Cuban-Americans could send to their relatives on the island. He also promised support for human rights activists and opponents of the Havana government.
The Cuban exile lobby, one of the largest proponents of the Helms-Burton Act, accepted Bush’s decision with little complaint.
“We understand that the president has a larger picture in mind, and we’re prepared to accept his judgment that now is not the time,” Dennis Hays, vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said.