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CARICOM condemns US use of Helms-Burton law in region

CARICOM condemns US use of Helms-Burton law in region

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Foreign Minister Dr Douglas Slater, have condemned the refusal of the United States Government to allow the fourth CARICOM/Cuba Summit to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Trinidad and Tobago.{{more}}

The men, speaking at the local ceremony to recognize the 39th anniversary of relations between Cuba and Caribbean states, said that the decision by the Hilton Worldwide went contrary to international law, and that some action should be taken at the regional level.

The two-day summit in Trinidad, which began last Wednesday, December 7, included Cuban president Raul Castro and heads of state and government of CARICOM countries.

The meeting was scheduled to take place at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Center, but took place instead at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port of Spain, after the hotel was denied a special license from the United States government to allow for the summit to take place there.

A release from Hilton Worldwide stated that as a US-based company, the hotel was subject to US law, which restricts certain activities as a result of the trade embargo with Cuba, as part of the Helms-Burton Act.

The Act, among other things, states that any US based company that deals economically with Cuba, can be subject to legal action and that company’s leadership can be barred from entry into the United States, and other sanctions can be applied.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, speaking last Friday, December 9 at a Cuba/Caricom ceremony at Frenches House, said that the Helms-Burton Act was not internationally recognized, and had no place in the Caribbean region.

“It is a domestic piece of American legislation with extra-territorial reach, and that should be condemned by all right thinking people…. I am very happy that CARICOM in paragraph 29 of its declaration with Cuba at the fourth summit… attacking precisely and rejecting extraterritorial jurisdiction by the United States of America through the Helms-Burton Law.”

Paragraph 29 of the Declaration of Port of Spain states: “We, the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and of the Republic of Cuba, meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 8 December 2011 on the occasion of the Fourth CARICOM-Cuba Summit;

STRONGLY CONDEMN the unilateral and extraterritorial application of coercive laws and measures contrary to international law, the United Nations Charter and to the principles of free navigation and trade in the world, and URGE the Government of the United States of America to heed the overwhelming call of the members of the United Nations and to lift with immediate effect the unjust economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against the Republic of Cuba;”

Foreign Minister Slater, also commenting on the decision by Hilton Worldwide, dismissed it as ridiculous, disgusting and undesirable.

“I think this incident that occurred is something to prick our consciences… How should we respond?

“We in the Caribbean must continue to demonstrate to all and sundry that we are proud people; we believe in our sovereignty and we will continue to show our solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela, and the rest of Latin America, as we have done when we signed on to CELAC (Community of Latin America and Caribbean States).”

The local celebration of the regional milestone also heard from Cuban ambassador to St Vincent and the Grenadines Pedro Antonio Rodrigues Vidal and others, and a 22 minute documentary was featured.

The Prime Minister, in reiterating this country’s commitment to Cuba, said that while the United States has a right to organize its domestic affairs as it sees fit, “…don’t organize it in a way to impose your will upon us. We will not accept it; we will reject that unequivocally.”

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