Bush campaign against Cuban tourism begins

Campaign News | Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Jamaican hotel owner told he may lose his US visa

WASHINGTON May 21 - The Bush administration has told a jamiacan businessman that his top directors will be denied entry into the United States because of investments the company made on property confiscated from Americans in Cuba.

John Issa's SuperClubs hotel chain with properties in the Caribbean and Brazil, operates five hotels in Cuba, accounting for 1,500 rooms.

A senior US official, who declined to be identified, said top executives, shareholders, their spouses and children would be denied visas, starting 45 days after the date of a letter recently sent to SuperClubs. It was not clear how many people would be affected.

SuperClubs' vice-president for marketing, Zein Issa-Nakash confirmed the US action but sought to play down the incident.

"We are in correspondence with the State Department over one of our hotels in Cuba," she told the Jamaican Observer newspaper. She declined to say which property was at issue.

SuperClubs has operated hotels in Cuba, mainly on management contracts, since 1990. The latest of its properties, the 442-room Grand Lido Varadero was opened on May 5.

The denial is a product of Title IV of the Helms Burton Act of 1996.

Sponsored by former Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Dan Burton Titel IV is part of an attempt to discourage foreign companies from investing in Cuba on properties confiscated from Americans, during the early days of the Cuban revolution.

The 45-day grace period will enable SuperClubs to reconsider its investment in Cuba, according to the official.

The Title IV provision of the Helms-Burton law has been invoked only on rare occasions over the years. Shortly after the legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, it was imposed against Sherritt International Corp, a Canadian mining firm.

On May, the Bush administration vowed to aggressively pursue enforcement of Title IV as part of a series of measures aimed at weakening Fidel Castro's government contained in the report of the so-called Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.

The new policy also calls for deployment of additional personnel to strengthen enforcement of Title IV.

Robert Muse, an international lawyer with expertise on Cuba, said the administration probably pursued a Jamaica-based target because the country lacks strategic importance compared with some European Union countries that could be subject to Title IV action.

The most prominent potential EU target would be the Spanish-based Sol Melia hotel chain, which has numerous properties in Cuba.

Muse suggested that, at least until recently, the Bush administration had no incentive to impose Title IV sanctions against Spanish interests because of Spain's troop commitment to Iraq.

The EU regards Title IV as a violation of World Trade Organisation rules but will not file a complaint so long as no EU company is targeted, Muse said.

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this