December 10, 2011 · 0 Comments
Nassau Bahamas – December 8, 2011 – (www.hospitalitybusinessnews.com) According to the T&T Guardian the government of Trinidad and Tobago was forced to change the venue for this weeks Caricom-Cuba summit to the National Academy for the Performing Arts.
The meeting was originally scheduled to be take place at the Hilton Trinidad, however due to the US embargo on Cuba a license needed to be obtained from the US Government before this event could take place and Hilton was unable to obtain one.
Although the Hilton Trinidad is owned by the Government of T&T it is operated under a long term agreement with Hilton, and, as a US Company Hilton is subject to United States Laws.
A Statement issued by Hilton and obtained by the Guardian stated “The US-Cuban assets control regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Department of the Treasury General prohibit US-based companies from providing any services that benefit the Cuban government unless specifically licensed.” The statement noted that violations are subject to significant civil and criminal penalties. The Hilton statement noted that while the hotel had worked with the appropriate governmental agencies in the US and in T&T to secure a license for the summit, the hotel had been informed that the necessary license would not be granted. The statement referred questions to the US Embassy in T&T.
T&T Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan said: “T&T respects international law and until that is changed, the hosting of the function at the Hilton will not be possible. In the current circumstances, NAPA has been chosen as the new venue for the opening ceremony of the summit,”
Although the former Cuban President Fidel Castro stayed at the Hilton Trinidad in 1995 that is when Hilton was two separate companies, with the international hotels under the control of the UK based Hilton Group PLC. As Hilton is now one company based in the USA the issue arose.
The Guardian confirmed that delegations attached to the 12 Caricom leaders attending the event will be staying at the Hilton. The Cuban delegation, however, will be staying at Kapok Hotel, it was confirmed.
US Embassy acting public affairs officer Alexander McLaren, however, told the Express yesterday via e-mail and telephone interview that, to his understanding, the licence is pending (though the matter is moot, with the conference on today) and the only reason the Hilton did not get it is because they had not applied on time.
A statement issued by the Caricom Secretariat said “We the Heads of State and Government of CARICOM and Cuba gathered for the Fourth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago are affronted by the intrusion of the United States against the sovereignty of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a unilateral and unwarranted extra-territorial application of the United States Helms Burton Law which is contrary to the United Nations Charter and to international law. It also flies in the face of the annual overwhelming rejection of this policy by the United Nations General Assembly.
“We reject the intervention of the US authorities which prevented the hosting of the CARICOM-Cuba Summit at the Hilton Hotel. This was one more demonstration of the injustice of the United States embargo and its harmful impact on the daily life of the Cuban people. On this occasion the extra-territorial action could have impacted on the success of the Summit, but thanks to the commitment and solidarity of the Member States of the Caribbean Community we can celebrate an outcome which reinforces the strong fraternal bonds between CARICOM and Cuba.”