mercredi, janvier 17, 2007

Actualité - How the Blockade Works Against Cuba in an Extraterritorial Way

"The ever-vigilant assets-control gnomes at the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the State Department have forced a Norwegian hotel to evict its Cuban guests, in a replay of last years' incident in Mexico, when a Cuban delegation meeting with U.S. businessmen was thrown out of a Mexico City Sheraton hotel," the newspaper La Alborada reports. That incident left the Fox administration looking pusillanimous and unable to defend Mexico's sovereignty, as Mexican law prohibits another nation's laws from taking precedence over domestic law on Mexican territory, the newspaper points out, adding that now, the U.S. is daring Norway to do something about it.

The action may be read as a warning for Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian powerhouse off-shore oil drilling company, which is one of the partners in Cuba's oil development program, it says.

The incident illustrates how the growing reach of U.S. capital around the world skips over national boundaries and policies to reach businesses directly.

The Scandic hotel chain has 140 hotels in nine countries, and Cuban delegations have stayed at its hotel in Oslo before. Norway has normal diplomatic relations with Cuba and does not support the blockade. No matter: in March, Hilton Hotels bought the firm. That means that 140 Nordic hotels now cannot host Cuban guests.

The 14-member Cuban delegation was in Oslo to attend the annual Lillestroem Tourism Fair in the town located on the outskirts of Oslo, slated to take place January 11-14.

"This is deplorable and I am surprised to see something like this occur in Norway," one of the Cubans told the Norwegian newspaper VG.

An official from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the decision was "totally unacceptable" and recalled that Norway maintains diplomatic ties with Cuba; however the decision by Hilton Hotels prevailed.

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 January 4.

"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."

Christina Karlegran, regional spokeswoman for Hilton and Scandic, said Hilton is an American company and is bound by the Cuba Blockade. "We have to follow American law," she said by telephone from Stockholm, Sweden. "We can't see that we have broken any Swedish or Norwegian law. ... If it turns out to be illegal, we will address that."

The Foreign Ministry said companies operating in Norway have to obey Norwegian law, regardless of their home base. It said other agencies would have to determine what laws apply in this case.

In a news release, Norway's largest labour union, the 830,000 member Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, demanded that "the government take steps so that companies like Scandic, which clearly abide by the United States' illegal boycott and blockade and not Norwegian law, are barred from doing business in Norway."

Similar incidents take place all the time. A U.S. firm buys into, or takes over, a manufacturer of computer or medical equipment, or a provider of services, and prior sales to Cubans are suspended by order of the would-be world empire. Even independent companies are affected, when they are forced to choose between doing business with the U.S. or with Cuba.

At present, the U.S. is on a campaign to make it impossible for Cuba to use banking services around the world, seeking thereby to impede Cuban trade and commerce, and likewise proposes to stymie Cuba's important nickel sales.

La Alborada points out:

"While doing all it can to sabotage the Cuban economy, the U.S. sanctimoniously argues that the Cuban government cannot perform and that it must convert to neoliberalism in order to save its economy. That is especially the case with Florida legislators like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who also advocates the assassination of Cuban leaders. She speaks as though the blockade were nothing more than a political statement, devoid of any effect on the Cuban people. Pressed to justify her war against the very Cuban people she claims to defend, she only repeats her mantra, 'No Castro, no problem.' In fact, there is no logic, and no factual basis, to support her sloganeering. We might say instead, 'No Ileana, no nonsense.' The blockade is real, and has been highly effective in undermining Cuba's economic development. The United Nations votes against it every year, and most nations want to do business with Cuba. That the U.S. continues to impose its will, notwithstanding international law and the will of other nations shows that what really counts is the pressure that the U.S. can bring on particular companies, irrespective of national boundaries and laws. It does so, simply, because it can.

"Cuba manages to find ways to surmount the assault, and last year its economy grew by 12.5 per cent. What could it achieve without the blockade?"

(Sources: La Alborada, Granma, Associated Press)

(The Marxist-Leninist Daily - January 15, 2007)

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