Cuba protests PriceSmart’s suspension of memberships in Jamaica
By Aileen Torres-Bennett
KINGSTON, April 11 (Reuters) – Cuba is protesting the decision by
PriceSmart Inc, a major U.S.-based bulk-shopping warehouse, to suspend
memberships of shoppers from the communist country at its Jamaica
subsidiary, Cuban officials said on Friday.
PriceSmart took the action this week, citing the decades-old U.S.
embargo on Cuba that prohibits economic relations between the two
countries, Cuban officials say.
PriceSmart did not respond to a request for comment, and has declined to
tell the Jamaican media why it suspended the memberships at this time.
Jamaica is increasingly popular with Cuban shoppers, and Havana lifted
restrictions on travel last year, allowing wealthier Cubans to leave the
country on shopping trips abroad.
One diplomatic source familiar with Cuba said PriceSmart may have
suspected large-scale purchases were being made on behalf of Cuban
government contractors, a potential embargo violation.
PriceSmart, based in San Diego, California, is the largest operator of
membership warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean, with 32
stores serving more than 1 million cardholders in those regions and
The company told Jamaican media it will only reinstate memberships for
Cuban embassy staff and citizens who can provide proof of permanent
residency in Jamaica.
“It’s a U.S. company, and their subsidiaries cannot sell to Cuba,” said
Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at
the University of Miami.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is trying to
broker a resolution between PriceSmart and the Cuban embassy, according
to local media. Ministry officials could not be reached immediately for
The U.S. embargo on Cuba has been in place more than 50 years. The Obama
administration has begun to soften restrictions on travel and
remittances to Cuba, but normalized relations are still a ways off.
Cuban ambassador to Jamaica Bernardo Guanche Hernández, quoted in
Jamaican media, condemned PriceSmart’s membership suspension move,
calling it “criminal” and adding that repeated United Nations
resolutions have called for an end to the embargo.
Cuban officials declined to comment publicly on the matter to Reuters
but complained privately that the PriceSmart issue was a sign that the
Obama administration continues to tightly enforce the embargo.
The ambassador also suggested the action was a violation of the Vienna
Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The Vienna Convention protects diplomats against persecution by a host
country, but “this is not persecution by the host country,” said
Purcell. “This is a subsidiary of a U.S. company.” (Additional reporting
by David Adams Editing by Kevin Gray, Richard Chang and Ken Wills)
Source: Cuba protests PriceSmart’s suspension of memberships in Jamaica
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