Mexico says it will investigate sanctions against a U.S.-owned hotel that expelled Cubans |

Mexico says it will investigate sanctions against a U.S.-owned hotel that expelled Cubans

MEXICO CITY – Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Monday the government is looking into possible sanctions against a U.S.-owned hotel if officials conclude it expelled Cuban guests because of their nationality or because of pressure from the U.S. government.A meeting between Cuban officials and U.S. energy executives was moved to another hotel Saturday after the Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton asked the Cubans to leave.Kirby Jones, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, said the U.S. government pressured the hotel’s owner, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., arguing that the U.S. company was violating a law that strengthened U.S. trade sanctions first imposed against Cuba in 1961.The 1996 Helms-Burton law “does not exist, and should not be applied, in our nation,” Derbez told a Mexico City radio station in an interview, the transcript of which was distributed to the news media. Derbez was on a state visit to the Netherlands.If officials determine that the hotel expelled the Cubans because of U.S. government pressure, Mexico would communicate to the United States “that the (Helms-Burton) law cannot in any way be applied extra-territorially,” and could possibly sanction the hotel accordingly, Derbez said. He did not say what the sanction would be.Judith Bryan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City who was contacted on Saturday, did not confirm that the U.S. government had pressured Starwood to ask the Cuban officials to leave.But she did say that “U.S. law prohibits U.S. persons and entities from providing services to Cuban national persons or entities, and the Sheraton, as a subsidiary of a U.S. company, is bound by U.S. law.”The Embassy was closed Monday for a Mexican holiday.Sheraton Hotel officials in Mexico City have declined to comment.If the hotel wasn’t bowing to pressure from the U.S., but was expelling the delegation because of its nationality, then it would be subject to fines and sanctions for violating both local and federal laws prohibiting discrimination, Derbez added.”There are Mexican laws against discrimination, which prevent action against a consumer for that reason,” he said.Also Monday, Mexico City’s interior secretary, Ricardo Ruiz, told reporters that city officials were investigating the possible violation of local anti-discrimination laws and the application of sanctions ranging from fines to the hotel’s closure.The three-day energy meeting in Mexico City, which wrapped up Saturday after moving to a Mexican-owned hotel, was the first private-sector oil summit between Cuba and the United States.The participants included representatives of Valero Energy Corp., the United States’ biggest oil refiner, as well as the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.Cuba lashed out at the United States on Monday for allegedly pressuring the Sheraton to oust the Cubans. Their expulsion also was denounced by Mexican politicians.”The tentacles of the blockade and the U.S. government’s criminal economic war against Cuba are willing to reach beyond any boundary on the planet, even to the detriment of the laws of other nations,” the Communist Party daily Granma said Monday.Vail, Colorado

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