Hilton’s Ban on Castro: An Affront to Our Sovereignty

December 10, 2011

Trinidad and Tobago NewsThe 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

Also Read:

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.

6 thoughts on “Hilton’s Ban on Castro: An Affront to Our Sovereignty”

  1. I agree with the opposition leader Keith Rowley. Why host the summit in a place where you know that there would cause n uncomfortable international situation? Is there not a better venue in TNT? If not, why not build one and do so with local labor?

    TNT has a deep seeded inferiority complex when it comes to the U.S. and everything “American”. How many people dawn NY basebal caps everyday whom have never been to New York nor a ML Baseball game? You hear U.S. artistis on the radion as much if not more than you do local homegrown talent. People in TNT practically break thier backs trying to be Americans.
    Why should the U.S. change it’s policy to show respect for other nations like TNT for events like the summit when it is clear that those nations don’t even respect themselves enough to remain true to who and what they are? PNM, UNC, blah, blah, blah? It doesn’t matter the party, the writing is on the wall. How many playin yankee sailor at mass this year?

  2. The USA is a dying country, but still pulling rank of contries like TNT others that cannot stand up to their bullying.

    Time to make changes Kamla to prevent this kind od ambarrasment.

  3. I’m afraid this is all rubbish. You’ve got an apples and oranges scenario going on here. US Foreign policy is one thing. Trinidad’s sovereignty is another. A private corporation refusing to accommodate Castro (by following their home country’s laws) has nothing to do with sovereignty. They are a private company and can refuse whomever they want to refuse – the gov’t has no right to vex with a private company making their own decision based on the laws of the land they are incorporated in. If the gov’t of T&T doesn’t like it, they’re free to hold their conference somewhere else.

  4. Two years ago , one of the first trips the US President Barrack Obama embarked on was a trip to Trinidad and Tobago to attend the Summit of the Americas heads of State conference.


    If memories serves me right, part of the MAIN ISSUES discussed was the question of starting a dialogue that would perhaps lead to some thawing of a six decades hostile relationship between Cuban and archival USA.In typical Trini ,dyslexic politics, the matter was shelved , as our regional Caribbean neighbors, together with inconsequential T&T , refused to broach the subject , even during respective leaders ,dozens of croissant and coffee sessions , to Washington , UN , and multitudes of other conferences , too numerous to recall.
    Now here is a thought for these highly paid policy wonks , and career Foreign Affairs advisors , who claim to appreciate real politicks, as played out by Bismarck real politick backdrop.
    If as a collective the entire CARICOM body, can fit into Manhattan , or Brooklyn with much room to spare , is it not time for a new and more prudent approach to foreign policy under the umbrella of ACP countries be pushed ?


    Let’s assume that these countries were to work together , after fine tuning where their economic ,and political strategic needs ,or interest truly lie, won’t they not be able to achieve more , on pressing issues of the day ,such as security ,trade, resource driven ,environmental degradations , prospective ethnic conflicts ,and most of all push back against any perceived evil forces , that are aimed at them, be it from America , in it ‘s issues with Fidil’s Cuba, encroaching China, curious Russia , or sleeping EU?
    ACP countries working with other regional bodies in Europe, Asia , Middle East, can be much more formidable against any foe, or suspect friend. Then , maybe I am wrong.
    Long live the Republic of T&T , and hopefully the sovereign will of all it’s people.

  5. Well Mr. Castro must be reminded that his own country still descrimates against its own black people and treats them like second class citizens. What goes around comes around.

  6. So gail , are you saying, he Castro does not discriminate against his own fake white ,mistizo bunch, or that he treats them instead, as first class citizens?
    The folly of these Trinis like gail,is most amazing,more worried about Castro a lifetime socialist,while in T&T, Black people , are treated as if they all have the plague,by dis new dominant political leadership, that has likewise treated their own tribes like garbage , unless they were fortunate to go to Oxford, holds a Phd, or is some empty barrel yapping lawyer – and what a tragedy!
    Just think what we could achieve gail, if a new form of leadership can emerge ,that can capitalize on that broad base raging reality of social neglect ,inequality, political bullying ,and blatant discrimination , or more importantly , that concept of , ‘all ah we are in the same boat,’- trying to survive under Her Majesty Queen K’S regime, eeeeh?
    Oh wait a minute , just heard some COP rumblings , and by the way ,there is a Ralph Maraj sighting ,as well. Maybe there is hope. Dr Cudjoe, Sir V. S Naipaul?Your call guys- meeting of the minds of our literature artists, turned big picture advocates, for de people. Did I hear coalition of de willing progressives? Well, I won’t hold my breath, as anyone’s soul , can be brought- hook line and sinker.


    Leave you out of that confusion , you say V S, as you have bigger fish to fry, like will your luving Britannia , get kick out of the EU / Euro zone, for their typical self serving idiocy, while their over dependent on Yankee ,Continent drift along abysmally, in like fashion to de the Afrikan Union?

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