By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press Writer
The Jamaican government said Tuesday it will continue to encourage business relations with Cuba, despite ongoing pressure by the United States to discourage investment by foreign companies in the communist nation.
Jamaica regards Cuba as a “close and valued neighbor” as well as a “member of the Caribbean family” and hopes to further strengthen the two countries’ trade and economic links, Foreign Minister Keith Desmond Knight told reporters Tuesday during a two-day visit to Cuba.
The visit by Knight, who is also foreign trade minister, came two weeks after Jamaican hotel chain SuperClubs announced it pulled out of two Cuban resort properties after threats from the U.S. government that company executives would not be allowed into the United States.
According to SuperClubs, in letters last month U.S. officials said they were taking the measure because one of the company’s resorts in Cuba was on property confiscated from Americans.
U.S. officials notified executives that visas would be denied to top officers, shareholders and their direct relatives within 45 days if it didn’t divest itself from a 500-room resort in Holguin, in eastern Cuba.
The Kingston-based chain “removed any connection” with two of its four properties in Cuba and claimed to be the victim of a political spat, SuperClubs owner and chairman John Issa told the Associated Press earlier this month.
The other two properties in Cuba continue operating.
Despite the SuperClubs incident, a business representative of the Jamaican government also in Havana said he believed most private companies in Jamaica would resist any future U.S. pressure.
“One or two companies will feel intimidated, but the majority of businesses in Jamaica are disposed to doing business with Cuba,” said Victor Salazar, the regional manager of Jamaica Promotions Corporation, a state agency.