The story of the U.S. embargo against Cuba goes back several administrations. It was created to punish the Cuban government for stealing U.S. properties on the island without compensating U.S. citizens who owned them. The embargo was later strengthened in 1996, when Cuban Migs shot down a plane carrying representatives of “Brothers to the Rescue,” a Miami-based organization identifying Cubans in rafts in the Florida Straits.
The Obama administration granted permission to a U.S. hotel management company to manage some hotels in Cuba. This is from Capitol Hill Cubans:
A few days before Obama’s historic March trip to Cuba, U.S. hospitality firm Starwood, which operates Sheraton, Westin and other prominent hotel brands, received authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to run several hotels on the island in apparent violation of U.S. laws.
All of the hotels are properties that were confiscated by Cuba’s communist regime without compensating private owners and are currently owned by the Cuban military, which means all profits generated by any commercial venture will finance the regime’s repressive apparatus.
Furthermore, the Cuban government will assign hotel workers their jobs and employees will have no labor rights. U.S. law prohibits American companies from operating under these conditions in other countries.
In an announcement celebrating the unusually swift Treasury authorization to do business in Cuba, Starwood Chief Executive Officer Thomas B. Mangas said “with Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire U.S. hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest, and we are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point.”
Somehow, Starwood beat out several other American companies that have been trying to obtain U.S. government approval to do business in Cuba, according to a mainstream newspaper. Among them is Marriott International whose CEO actually accompanied Obama on his trip to Cuba earlier this year.
As a Cuban-American who came here as a kid with my parents, I’d love to see U.S. businesses start ventures in Cuba and bring capitalism back to the island. At the same time, this is not what the Obama administration is doing with these deals.
First, we are doing ventures not with Cubans, but the Cuban military, which is basically a subsidiary of the Castro family. Cubans will not participate in these ventures except as employees paid in worthless pesos after the Castro family keeps the dollars, or hard currency. It’s hard for me to believe that a U.S. CEO would participate in such a racket and abuse of people.
Second, these properties were confiscated from U.S. citizens. Who represents them? Isn’t that what the president of the U.S. is supposed to do?
The Obama administration should call on Congress to end the embargo or it should live by the law. Is that asking too much of this administration?