PriceSmart and Cuba in ‘shopping’ dispute
By rickey singh
Story Created: Apr 12, 2014 at 8:40 PM ECT
International warehouse shopping company PriceSmart, which operates
in various Caribbean Community (Caricom) states, is under sharp
criticisms for now involving Cuba’s diplomatic missions in the region
in the more than half-century of America’s trade, economic and
financial blockade of that Caribbean nation.
Immediately affected Cuban missions include Barbados, Jamaica, and
Trinidad and Tobago where accredited diplomats, their families and
staff have been informed by PriceSmart management of the suspension of
business accounts after being advised by the parent company of
possible violations of the US embargo in transacting business with
Cubans without “permanent residency” in countries of their operations.
In a mixture of hilarity and strong warning, current Caricom chairman
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves
said in a telephone interview yesterday that the US government should be
“mindful of the implications of PriceSmart’s action”.
He pointed out while at first, he could not resist “laughing at this
infantile political move”, he was nevertheless mindful that PriceSmart
is incorporated into the laws of sovereign Caribbean states, and now
engaging in “unnecessary, unprovoked acts” against Cuba’s diplomatic
personnel and other Cuban nationals who are working in various
regional sectors, including doctors and nurses.
The Vincentian prime minister said neither the US government nor owners
and operators of corporate enterprises like PriceSmart could be
unmindful of the historic role initially played by Caricom countries to
bring Cuba out of the “diplomatic isolation” to which the US economic
embargo had assigned it, following its Fidel Castro-led 1959 revolution.
Further, of the community’s continuing involvement with the rest of
the international community, minus the miniscule exception of three,
in passage year after year, resolutions denouncing the “archaic law”
governing the embargo which has “miserably failed to destabilise” the
government in Havana or to “quench the revolutionary spirit of the
Criticisms of PriceSmart’s suspension of business accounts for
Cubans have come from
Cuba’s embassies in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago,
headed respectively by ambassadors Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Lisette
Perez Perez and Guittermo Vazquez Moreno.
For ambassador Hernandez, the decision by PriceSmart constituted “a
criminal act, based on an anachronistic law” which violates the Vienna
In Barbados, ambassador Perez disclosed a representative of the local
PriceSmart turned up to inform the embassy about the suspension of
business transactions while, he explained, they invest “effort, time
and resources” in pursuing lawful channels in the US which “may enable
us to reactivate those accounts…”.
The resident Cuban diplomatic missions in Barbados, Jamaica, and
Trinidad and Tobago have pointed to “unnecessary inconveniences” to
non-embassy staff like Cuban doctors and teachers.
According to ambassador Perez, there seems to be an “underlying
intention to encourage defections” by Cubans, in favour of having
permanent resident status that would enable them to do “membership
business” with PriceSmart.
“This is the sort of contempt by those”, she said, “who do not really
understand what the Cuban revolution and Cuban patriotism mean for us…”.
Ironically, the move by PriceSmart to suspend business transactions
with Cuban diplomatic missions and Cubans who do not have permanent
working status in Caricom states came against the backdrop of approval
last month by the Cuban National Assembly of a ground-breaking
foreign-investment law to encourage a new “development partnership”
that would be extended also to overseas-based Cubans.
Source: PriceSmart and Cuba in ‘shopping’ dispute | Trinidad Express
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