MPs protest at Hilton Hotel ban on Cubans
Campaign News | Wednesday, 7 February 2007
EDM calls on British government to oppose extra-territorial extension of US blockade
Ian Gibson MP, Chair of the All-Party Cuba Group of MPs has tabled an Early Day Motion in the British Parliament calling on the Government to oppose any extension of the US blockade of Cuba to Britain.
The move was sparked by a story in the Guardian on Monday in which a spokeswoman for the Hilton Hotel Group in the UK said that the company would not allow Cuban delegations to stay at its hotels because this would breach the US blockade laws.
Already a chain of hotels in Norway owned by Hilton has banned Cubans from its establishments. This has caused a storm of protest in Oslo where Norwegian unions have organised a boycott of Hilton hotels.
The EDM is reproduced below and can be found at:
The Guardian story and how CSC reported on the original Norwegian protest are also reproduced below.
Early Day Motion 828
HILTON HOTEL GROUP
That this House regrets the decision of the Hilton Hotel Group to ban Cuban delegations from its global chain; expresses concern over remarks from a UK spokesperson for the Hilton Group that Cubans may be banned from their London hotels; recognises that any such developments would violate domestic UK anti-discrimination laws and EU safeguards against the use of extra-territorial legislation and would be tantamount to a breach of UK sovereignty as well as being an act of racial discrimination; calls upon the UK Government to issue a public statement of opposition to any attempts by the Hilton Group or any other US owned multi-national companies to enforce elements of the illegal US embargo of Cuba in the territory of the United Kingdom.
No room at the Hilton: Cubans find US trade ban stretches to Oslo
From the Guardian newspaper, London
· Norwegian unions protest global effect of embargo
· Booking would have caused chaos says hotel
Monday February 5, 2007
An Oslo hotel, owned by the US Hilton chain, refused a booking by a Cuban trade delegation to the city's travel fair last month because of the US embargo of the communist Caribbean island.
The Hilton group is also banning Cuban delegations from all of its hotels around the world as are other American hotel companies, a Hilton spokeswoman in London told the Guardian yesterday.
"We are a US company," said Linda Bain, vice-president for communications at the group. "The dilemma we face is that [if we took a booking from a Cuban delegation] we would be subject to fines or prison and if anyone [from the company] tried to enter the US, they would be arrested." She said they were now seeking clarification of their position from the US government.
Norwegian trade unions and anti-racist organisations complained about the Scandic hotel's actions and are now moving union conferences elsewhere until the policy is changed.
"It is not allowed by law in Norway to discriminate on grounds of gender, religion or nationality," said the deputy leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees, Anne Grethe Skaardal. "It is unacceptable for the US to dictate to the whole world."
The hotel ban is just one of the latest of many similar actions prompted by the US embargo of Cuba.
Last month freelance journalist Tom Fawthrop, who has written for the Guardian and the Economist, was puzzled that he had not been paid for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that he had written about the Cuban health service. On enquiring what had happened, he received this message from Citibank Global: "Due to US sanctions, your payment was stopped for the following reason - reference to Cuban doctors. The Office of Foreign Asset Controls is requesting clarification. Please advise details of Cuban doctors and also purpose of this transaction."
Last year, Ann Louise Bardach, the American journalist and author who wrote the book Cuba Confidential, was also puzzled that she had not received payment for consultancy work on the Channel Four Film, 638 Ways to Kill Castro. She took the matter up with the production company in London and it transpired that the payment had indeed been sent but had been held up in the US because the word "Cuba" appeared in reference to the payment.
When the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, based in north London, needed to buy a new office computer they approached Dell, whose headquarters are in Texas. The order was placed and accepted but a few days later they were contacted by Dell seeking information about the destination of the computer. They explained that it was for use in London offices. Dell then wanted to know about the organisation's funding and the names of their executive members. The campaign decided to take their custom elsewhere.
"The fact that the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a UK based NGO, are restricted from buying a Dell computer for use in our north London offices, illustrates the far reaching effects of a blockade that is increasingly imposing US bigotry and absurdity onto the lives of UK citizens," said Rob Miller of Cuba Solidarity.
The hotel ban has also operated in different parts of the world. Last year, the Mexican government fined the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City around £60,000 for expelling 16 Cuban guests.
Last night the Labour MP Colin Burgon contacted the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, to ask her to issue a "robust rebuttal" to the hotel ban.
The Labour MP Ian Gibson, the chairman of the group, described the ban as "small-minded". A vote on the embargo at the UN last year showed that 183 countries oppose it and four (the US, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands) support it. The embargo, which is supported by the Bush administration, is opposed by opposition groups in Cuba which describe it as counter-productive. A growing number of US politicians also seek to have the embargo lifted.
In Norway, does US or Norwegian law prevail?
Unions protest at ban on Cubans staying at hotels
11 January 2007
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.