Saturday, January 06, 2007


The U.S. blockade of Cuba reaches Norway

The U.S. economic war against Cuba reached across the Atlantic to Norway this week. A Norwegian hotel belonging to the local chain Scandic, recently purchased by the US Hilton Group, refused to allow a 14-member delegation of Cuban tourism officials to stay at the hotel, citing the notorious Helms-Burton act. Similar delegations had stayed at the same hotel on five previous visits to Norway.

An official from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the decision was "totally unacceptable,” but has thus far taken no action. The Norwegian working class had a more powerful reaction. The Municipal and General Employees Union, with 300,000 members, announced a boycott of all Scandic hotels in the country, declaring it unacceptable for the United States to give orders to the world. Norway’s Federation of Commerce Unions, with 830,000 members, demanded that the government take immediate measures so that corporations that support the US blockade of Cuba cannot operate in the country.

The Norwegian Anti-Racism Center (Antirasistisk Senter) filed a complaint with the police for "violating the law that prohibits any discrimination based on race or ethnicity." Meanwhile, dozens of supporters of Cuba have contacted the Cuban embassy to offer their homes to the visitors as a gesture of solidarity.

This isn’t the first time that the U.S. blockade of Cuba has taken this form. Last February, a meeting between Cuban officials and U.S. energy executives in Mexico City had to be moved to another hotel after the Sheraton Hotel, under direct pressure from the U.S. government, asked the Cubans to leave. As a result, the hotel was forced to pay a $112,000 fine, and a month later the Mexico City government briefly closed the hotel for code violations as a direct result of the expulsion of the Cubans.

Nor are hotels the only American-owned corporations actively implementing the cruel Helms-Burton act. In October, a thirteen-year-old Cuban boy was singled out and publicly humiliated during an awards ceremony for an international art contest, when the Japanese company Nikon denied him a digital camera awarded to the other winners because the camera contained more than 10 percent American components and the prize would amount to a violation of the blockade.

In December, noted American filmmaker Oliver Stone became a victim of the blockade, fined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for having filmed portions of two movies about Fidel Castro in Cuba during 2002 and 2003.

The blockade doesn’t just show itself in isolated incidents like the examples above; it affects Cuba on a daily basis. For example, Cuba had to spend more than $4 million additional during 2005 to obtain international Internet access via satellite, because the less expensive and faster underwater fiber-optic cable connection is denied to it by the blockade. Internet access is just one tiny part of the cost Cuba pays — during a typical year, Cuba estimates that it loses $4 billion in income because of the blockade. As Ricardo Alarcón, President of the Cuban National Assembly, has noted, the U.S. attempt to “bring about hunger and desperation” (words taken directly from a 1960 State Department document) among the Cuban people fits the definition of genocide under the Geneva Convention.

Acts that are this vindictive and vicious cannot be explained by any imaginary (and absurd) threat to U.S. “national security” by Cuba, nor by the alleged electoral power of right-wing Cuban-Americans in Florida. Only the very real example that the Cuban Revolution sets for millions of people around the world, and the fact that that example is having very concrete effects throughout Latin America, can explain it.

Update: Addresses for protest in the comments.

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