MARRIOTT OUT OF CUBA: US orders company to leave

Posted on 06/10/2020 | About Havana, Cuba

MARRIOTT OUT OF CUBA: US orders company to leave

Starwood Hotels, now owned by Marriott, four years ago became the first US hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution amid the normalization of relations pursued by former President Barack Obama. Marriott says the Trump Administration is now forcing the company to shut down its Cuban operations.

Trump has tightened the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba and wants to pressure the island into democratic reform and to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The approach could help Trump bolster support in the large Cuban-American community in Florida, a state considered vital to his re-election chances in November.

A Marriott spokeswoman said the US Treasury Department had ordered the company to wind down its operation of the Four Points Sheraton in Havana by Aug. 31. It would also not be allowed to open other hotels it had been preparing to run.

A US Treasury Department spokesperson said it could not comment on specific licensing matters, but that the administration aimed to prevent Cuba’s military from using revenue from tourism to “oppress its own people”.

“In 2017, Trump promised he would not disrupt existing contracts US businesses had with Cuba,” wrote William LeoGrande, a Cuba expert at American University in Washington, on Twitter. “Promise made, promise broken.”

The news came two days after the US State Department expanded its list of Cuban entities with which Americans are banned from doing business to include the military-owned financial corporation that handles US remittances to Cuba.

US sanctions have further crippled an economy already struggling with a decline in aid from leftist ally Venezuela and the end of hard-currency generating Cuban medical missions in Brazil and elsewhere.

Philip Peters who runs the FocusCuba business consultancy and has advised Marriott, said no good had come from a lifetime of US sanctions that separated the US and Cuban peoples, harmed Cuba’s economy, and limited American influence in Cuba.

“Marriott will hopefully return to do business in Cuba, along with others, to encourage American travel and to help Cuba prosper and integrate into the global economy,” he said.

The hotel is owned by Gaviota, a tourism organization with close ties to the Cuban military.

The Trump Administration has been trying to apply pressure on US firms doing business with entities controlled by Cuba’s military.

It has led to the halting of all cruise ship calls to Cuba and a significant reduction in scheduled flights from US airports.

MARRIOTT OUT OF CUBA: US orders company to leave