[Marxism] Sanctions can alienate allies

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 14 21:51:49 MST 2006

Excellent article which should be circulated widely. Shows in very
clear ways how the U.S. blockade of Cuba is bad for the U.S. in so
many ways. While the United States trades actively with China and
Vietnam, U.S. companies in those countries obey local legislation.
What this experience demonstrates is that when it comes to Cuba, 
Washington is willing to violate the sovereignty of such countries
as Mexico in its attempts to disrupt completely legal activities 
which take place in Mexico.  U.S. companies are doing business at
this time with Cuba, in the agricultural area. This is completely
legal. While Washington has tried to disrupt such transations by
punishing the Swiss bank with handled the exchange of U.S. funds,
the trade itself is fully legal. This past weekend we saw a big
step by Washington to prevent U.S. companies from having further
contacts with Cuba. This is isolationism and protectionism, which
Bush complained about forcefully during his State of the Union
address. Washington's efforts to disrupt U.S. business as part of

Posted on Thu, Feb. 09, 2006
Sanctions can alienate allies
jcolvin at nftc.org

Last weekend, the Mexican government and the Starwood Hotels and
Resorts learned just how messy U.S. policy on Cuba can be when both
were dragged into a dispute over a conference of Cuban officials and
U.S. business delegates. To prevent future conflicts with important
U.S. allies and to preserve the reputation of U.S. brands worldwide,
the U.S. government should reconsider how it applies sanctions.

The controversy began when Starwood, the U.S. parent of Sheraton
Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City, intervened at the request of U.S.
officials and ordered a delegation of Cuban officials to leave its
hotel. The Cubans were participating in a conference on energy issues
with U.S. business representatives, including myself. A Starwood
spokesperson said that the Cubans were asked to leave to comply with
the terms of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Unintended consequences

This incident highlights the unintended consequences and
capriciousness of unilateral U.S. sanctions. By applying U.S. law to
a foreign corporation, the United States has strained relations with
an important ally.

While the Mexico-based Sheraton hotel shares its name with a division
of an U.S. corporate parent, the hotel is organized under the laws of
Mexico, which Mexican officials and newspaper editorial boards have
angrily noted.

This unnecessary irritant serves to undermine official cooperation on
important security and economic issues and damages the goodwill of
the United States among the broader population.

Extending U.S. sanctions to foreign corporations also puts these
companies between a rock and a hard place by challenging them to
comply with conflicting laws. In this case, the Mexican Congress
passed a law, called a blocking statute, in response to the
Helms-Burton Act passed by the U.S. Congress, which extended U.S.
sanctions on Cuba to foreign corporations. This blocking statute
prevents companies organized under Mexican laws from complying with
these extraterritorial U.S. sanctions. As a result, the Sheraton
Maria Isabel is put in the impossible position of having to comply
with contradictory U.S. and Mexican laws.

Over the longer term, these sanctions put the reputation of U.S.
brands at risk around the world. What conference organizer in his
right mind would ever organize a meeting even remotely related to
Cuba in a U.S.-branded hotel, let alone a Sheraton? Organizers will
look toward companies such as the French-based Sofitel instead to
hold future events.

More broadly, the application of U.S. sanctions to disrupt this
conference is counterproductive as it limits our ability to project
democratic values and advance U.S. foreign-policy goals. This
conference provided a forum for dialogue on economic issues and
introduced a delegation of American capitalists to Cuban officials.
It is disappointing that the U.S. government, which advocates
dialogue and engagement in so many other countries around the world,
including China, would stifle discussions involving Cuba.

Take a critical look

While it is absolutely necessary to use all of the means at our
disposal to advance U.S. foreign-policy goals, current U.S. policy
toward Cuba is not making the impact that Congress or the president
intended. At the same time, unilateral sanctions have caused
unexpected problems with U.S. allies, are harming the reputation of
U.S. companies and are being applied unevenly.

The U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, chaired by
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will reconvene in 2006 with en
eye toward further strengthening sanctions against Cuba. A better
idea would be to take a critical look at what the sanctions have
really accomplished. This latest incident argues for new approaches,
not more of the same.

Jake Colvin is director of the USA*Engage project of the National
Foreign Trade Council, a trade association based in Washington.

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