December 10, 2011
The U.S. has laws and regulations which prevent U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba unless they obtain a special licence from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These laws extend to operations of U.S. companies in other countries as well. The United States Department of the Treasury refused to grant a licence to the Trinidad Hilton Hotel, which is managed by Hilton Worldwide, to host the CARICOM-Cuba summit which involved Cuban leader Raul Castro. This untenable affront to Trinidad and Tobago’s sovereignty reflects the continued tradition of U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean and our local leaders’ complicity in this abuse.
When asked to give her view about this embarrassing situation, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar intimated that she preferred not to comment on the foreign policies of the United States. However, her refusal to comment on U.S.-Cuba relations is not the only issue. The bigger issue is: why are our politicians doing business with U.S. companies under conditions which encroach on T&T’s sovereignty?
Here is a quote from the Prime Minister: “We have diplomatic relations with the U.S. We respect their foreign policy and I hope they respect ours. Therefore it is not appropriate for us to comment on matters relating to their foreign policy. We are friends and neighbours to all. This matter is based on U.S. foreign policy.” (Newsday, December 09, 2011)
Even if people agree with the U.S.’s position on Cuba, U.S. companies that operate in Trinidad and Tobago should ideally abide by our laws and policies or face expulsion by our government. It is unacceptable to have companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago under U.S. laws which disregard our sovereign laws and policies.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suruj Rambachan first responded to this matter stating that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had to abide by international law. It seems that our politicians have accepted The United States’ Cuban Liberty and the Solidarity Act of 1996 as international law.
Certainly, the U.S.’s refusal to grant a licence for the summit and, more so, the fact that they had to grant a licence in the first place is an affront to T&T’s (so-called) independence. Should U.S. policies usurp our policies in Trinidad and Tobago? Why should our Prime Minister not want to comment on the U.S.’s foreign policies given that they affect countries beyond U.S. territories, and more so, when those policies encroach on our local and foreign policies?
Opposition leader, Keith Rowley claimed that the government was wrong for trying to host the summit at the Trinidad Hilton in the first place; he claimed that the government should have selected a different venue. So far, he has not said anything about the stupidity of this arrangement with U.S. companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago.
The PNM government as a whole is also culpable in this mess as it continued the franchise relationship with Hilton Worldwide after the U.S. government passed laws which had the potential to encroach on our sovereign laws. Don’t we have anti-discrimination laws in Trinidad and Tobago? And, why hasn’t the PNM demanded that U.S. companies that operate in Trinidad and Tobago comply with our laws and policies? The PNM not only accepted this U.S. position but added the Hyatt Regency hotel to the list of our assets that the U.S. government exercises control over.
What does this government plan to do about this unacceptable situation? Are we going to continue with business as usual with Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and other U.S. companies that are compelled to comply with U.S. laws that are in opposition to Trinidad and Tobago’s laws and policies?
UPDATED: DECEMBER 10, 2011 – 7:13 PM
US out of step on Cuba
Guardian Editorial – December 08, 2011
It must be particularly displeasing too for the Government and people of T&T who own the Hilton facilities, although it is managed by an American chain, to have to be dictated to on T&T soil by an American law that has long passed its usefulness and is out of step with today’s realities.
Unwelcome meddling by the United States
Trinidad Express Editorial – December 07, 2011
That the Hilton Trinidad, owned by the State, was effectively prohibited by dictate under US law from holding a conference to be attended by Cuban President Raul Castro feels like a slap in the face of Trinidad and Tobago and a contemptuous overriding of national sovereignty. That feeling is justified.
Not enough is yet known to be able to judge whether the Trinidad and Tobago Government resisted as stoutly as it should any such interference in its internal affairs, or whether insistence on having the conference at the Hilton could have led to criminal or civil-law US retaliation against the US-based management of the hotel.