What to expect from the Obama Administration during its remaining days?
A focus upon expanding regulations, persuading the government of the Republic of Cuba to authorize more initiatives, and negotiating a settlement of the certified claims.
Some advocates in Washington, DC, may argue that if President Obama agrees to a claims settlement the momentum for further legislative and regulatory changes will be weakened- the process will continue to be one of incrementality rather than "the big bang theory" where the United States Congress votes to repeal all relevant statutes... that's a foolish argument.
The bilateral relationship has never been about a moment; it's always been about a series of moments… with each building upon the predecessor moment.
The Obama Administration may seek to use a portion of the funds obtained during the last eight years from global financial institution settlements to offset some or all of the principal amount of approximately US$1.9 billion for the 5,913 certified claimants. The value is approximately US$8 billion with interest.
If the Obama Administration makes a payment to the certified claimants essentially on behalf of the government of the Republic of Cuba, might those who have civil judgements in the United States against the government of the Republic of Cuba seek to seize the funds? Someone may try.
The challenge will be for the government of the Republic of Cuba to recognize there will be no monetary reparations to offset for their potentially US$121 billion to US$800 billion in claims against the United States.
President Obama may have a time window upon the expiration of the Defense Authorization Act this fall; there is a provision in the 2015/2016 law that precludes President Obama from changing the lease for Guantanamo Bay. This could be a component of non-monetary reparation.
There is no more important issue for the Obama Administration to resolve by 20 January 2017 than settling the certified claims; and that process has been made easier due to the decision by Connecticut-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (being acquired by Maryland-based Marriott International), which controls a certified claim valued at US$51 million, to engage with the government of the Republic of Cuba.
Without a settlement of the certified claims, every Obama Administration initiative becomes less secure and more tenuous in terms of post-Obama Administration survival. A settlement of the certified claims would create momentum in the United States Congress that could not be derailed… and that may cause concern for some in the government of the Republic of Cuba, where a slight derailment of energy might be welcomed to slow the process of re-engagement.