Hilton Hotels ban prompts outrage
Campaign News | Friday, 9 February 2007
From the Morning Star newspaper UK
Wednesday 07 February 2007
by TOM MELLEN
MPs and trade unions declared on Wednesday that they will not be staying at Hilton hotels until the US multinational lifts its global ban on providing accommodation to official Cuban delegations.
The House of Commons Scottish affairs select committee decided to boycott the Dundee Hilton, where it was scheduled to meet later this month, after it discovered that the chain will bar Cuban delegates from staying at its British branches.
Member Ian Davidson MP said that it would not be appropriate to stay at the hotel following comments made by Hilton London spokeswoman Linda Bain, who said that Cuban delegates would be banned as part of the US blockade against the socialist country.
Ms Bain was responding to reports that an Oslo hotel owned by the chain had refused a booking by a Cuban trade delegation last month, which has sparked a boycott by Norwegian trade unions.
She claimed that, if a Hilton hotel in Britain were to put up an official Cuban delegation, members of the local management team would be immediately arrested if they entered the US and could face jail.
Mr Davidson asked Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday if he would raise the issue with US President George Bush.
Mr Blair said that he was couldn't "promise to raise it," but he asserted that he would "look into it and, if I can be of any help, I will be."
A Commons motion was tabled on Monday by all-party parliamentary group on Cuba chairman Ian Gibson, which stated: "This House expresses concern that Cubans may be banned from Hilton London hotels."
The motion pointed out that the developments would break British anti-discrimination laws and called on the government to issue a public statement of opposition to the decision.
A T&G spokesman described the ban on Cuban delegates as an "outrageous act of discrimination.
"Hilton can kiss goodbye to trade union business if this is their attitude," he said.
The T&G will not be using Hilton hotels for their biennial conference later this year.
And the Scottish TUC, which held its sixth annual learning conference at the Dundee Hilton last year, confirmed that it will be backing the boycott.
A Commission for Racial Equality spokesperson added: "The Hilton would be acting unlawfully under the Race Relations Act by refusing to provide services to Cuban people.
"The Race Relations Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on racial grounds, which includes nationality, in the provision of goods, facilities or services."
Who makes our laws?
Morning Star Newspaper Editorial
Wednesday 07 February 2007
TONY Blair says that he can't promise to raise with George W Bush the Hilton hotel group's scandalous ban on providing accommodation to official Cuban delegations.
Mr Blair's supercilious response to Labour backbencher Ian Gibson must not be the last word on the matter.
The issue goes to the heart of where political and legal authority lies in Britain - in our elected Parliament or the US Congress.
The Hilton group insists that it, as a US-based company, is bound by US law and that, since the US authorities have taken it upon themselves to extend domestic US law onto a global basis, it must discriminate against representatives of Cuba.
In one sense, there is no reason for Mr Blair to raise this matter with Mr Bush, since he is responsible to Westminster rather than the White House.
He should simply declare that British law takes precedence in this country and that all efforts to transplant laws from an alien judiciary will be null and void.
Failure to do so will not only underline the Blair government's subservience to Washington but could also open an entire legal can of worms.
If the US Congress can extend its laws to Britain, what would stop transnational corporations based in countries that permit discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation operating such unacceptable conditions here?
This scenario ought to be unacceptable not only to everyone who is well disposed to Cuba but to anyone who thinks that the people of Britain live in a democracy.
If Washington knows that it cannot impose its will without provoking a massive backlash, it will back down.
This was the lesson of Washington's so-called Cuba Democracy Act which sought to punish airlines, shipping companies and import-export businesses if they traded with Cuba.
In the face of solid opposition from European Union member states, the US Congress built in an indefinite waiver for EU countries.
Even the Bush administration could do no differently if it was convinced that the British government had a bit of backbone and was prepared to assert its independence, as Cuba has been proud to do ever since its revolution 48 years ago.
But, even if new Labour is fated to remain spineless, the White House's nefarious plans can still be thwarted.
The decision of the Commons Scottish affairs select committee to boycott the Dundee Hilton is an important example of political principle, as is the Scottish TUC announcement that it will do likewise.
The Hilton group's hotels in Brighton and other seaside resorts benefit substantially from block bookings by trade unions for their own conferences and for TUC and Labour Party conferences.
The T&G says that Hilton can "kiss goodbye" to this business and it is a safe bet that other major unions will take the same attitude.
If the labour movement has to choose between Hilton's comforts and ongoing solidarity with Cuba, then there is only one decision to take and taking that decision can raise once more the illegal and bullying nature of the US blockade against Cuba.
Scottish MPs boycott Hilton Hotels
Scottish Affairs Committee condemns extension of blockade
SCOTTISH MPs are boycotting the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow after the chain signalled it would ban Cubans from staying in its hotels across the UK.
The Scottish affairs committee called the ban an extension of the "illegal American blockade" on Cuba and retaliated by cancelling its booking for an upcoming conference in Glasgow.
In a statement issued late last night, the committee said the move was to demonstrate its "opposition to discrimination and illegal extra-territorial legislation".
The row was triggered on Monday, when it emerged an Oslo hotel, owned by the American chain Hilton, had refused a booking by a Cuban trade delegation to the city's travel fair last month because of the embargo of the Caribbean island by the United States.
An Early Day Motion has also been tabled at Westminster calling on the government to oppose the Hilton ban.
MPs table EDM protesting Hilton ban
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.