In Norway, does US or Norwegian law prevail?
Campaign News | Thursday, 11 January 2007
Unions protest at ban on Cubans staying at hotels
A delegation from Cuba’s Tourism Ministry planning to be in Norway for the annual Lillestroem Tourism Fair on Jan. 11-13 learned in December that its 14 members weren’t welcome at the Edderkoppen Hotel in Olso where previous Cuban delegations had stayed.
Geir Lundkvist, spokesperson for the Scandic chain that owns that hotel and 139 others in nine countries, explained that U.S. rules have been in force since March 2006 when U.S.-based Hilton corporation bought Scandic. The U.S. economic blockade of Cuba took precedence, he said.
Christina Karlegran, regional spokesperson for Hilton and Scandic, assured reporters that Cuban groups are turned away from Scandic hotels in Sweden too. “We have to follow American law,” she said.
In response, the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees is boycotting Scandic hotels. Union leader Anne Grethe Skaardal declared, “For us, it is unacceptable for the U.S. to dictate to the whole world. In addition, we strongly oppose the U.S. boycott of Cuba.”
The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions demanded that “companies like Scandic” be barred from Norway. Citing Norwegian law, Oslo’s Anti-Racist Center filed a police complaint against the hotel, Scandic, and a Hilton Hotel managing director. The center said, “No one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin ... foreign companies establishing themselves in Norway must follow Norwegian laws.” Norway’s foreign minister agreed, although he expressed uncertainty as to the government agency responsible for following up on the situation.
In March 2006 Mexico’s government fined the Sheraton company $112,000 for refusing service to 16 Cuban guests. Sheraton hotels in Sweden reportedly are continuing to bar Cuban visitors.
Norwegians protest over ban on Cubans staying at hotel
An Oslo hotel owned by the U.S.-based Hilton Hotel Corp. faced protests, a boycott and a police complaint this week after refusing to book a Cuban delegation because of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
The Cuban delegation, set to attend a travel fair in Oslo this month, planned to stay at the Scandic Edderkoppen Hotel in the city centre, as they had on five previous visits.
However, the 140-hotel Scandic company was bought by Hilton in March, and the Cubans were informed in December that they would have to find another hotel.
Yesterday, the 300,000-member Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees announced that it was boycotting all Scandic hotels in Norway, joining a wave of protests that started when the ban on Cuban guests became news on Thursday.
"We are already looking for other hotels for planned conferences," said the union's deputy leader Anne Grethe Skaardal. "For us, it is unacceptable for the U.S. to dictate to the whole world. In addition, we strongly oppose the U.S. boycott of Cuba."
The Anti-Racist Centre in Oslo filed a police complaint against the hotels, saying Norwegian law ensures that "no one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin."
Christina Karlegran, regional spokeswoman for Hilton and Scandic, said Hilton is an American company and is bound by the Cuba embargo."We have to follow American law," she said.