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Posted April 25, 2007 by Cubana in US Embargo

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April 13, 2007

By GEORGE JAHN Associated Press Writer

VIENNA, Austria — An Austrian bank recently bought by a U.S.-led consortium acknowledged Friday it told a Cuban-born client to take her business elsewhere and suggested that Washington’s ban on commerce with Cuba was behind the decision.

A resident of good standing in her Austrian village, Maria Cajigal-Ramirez said that until the ruling, she believed she was thoroughly integrated into her new life after turning her back on Fidel Castro’s Cuba and acquiring Austrian citizenship.

Although she has lived in Austria since 1978 and has been a citizen for seven years, she still holds her old passport, a document she says she does not want but cannot return because Cuban authorities refuse to revoke her old citizenship. And U.S. law prohibits not only American businesses but also their subsidiaries abroad to conduct any commerce with Cuban nationals.

The bank, BAWAG-P.S.K., was bought in December by a consortium headed by New York-based Cerberus Capital Management. The bank, linked to questionable loans to the collapsed U.S. commodities broker Refco, was sold by its previous owner, the Austrian Trade Union Federation, in its efforts to distance itself from the financial scandal.

The move brought stability to BAWAG and was hailed by most customers of the bank, Austria’s fourth-largest. But for Cajigal-Ramirez and about 100 other Cuban residents of Austria, it has resulted in a jarring reminder that they are different.

“I feel anguish and disappointment,” she said Friday by phone from her home in Frankenmarkt, a village of 4,000 people about 20 miles northeast of Salzburg. “I think I am a victim of discrimination.”

Government and opposition politicians criticized the bank’s decision.

Erwin Buchinger, the minister of social and consumer affairs, said he was “outraged by the behavior of BAWAG toward Cuban clients.” He said he agreed with Cajigal-Ramirez that the move was discriminatory, adding it could be illegal. The opposition Green party called the bank’s decision “appalling.”

In an e-mailed statement, the bank said U.S. sanctions prohibit “U.S. companies or consortiums to maintain business contacts with Cuba, Cuban companies or individuals of Cuban nationality, wherever these may be located or be domiciled.”
“This prohibition extends also to non-U.S. ... companies that are owned or controlled by U.S. individuals or U.S. companies.”

In comments to the Austria Press Agency, BAWAG spokesman Thomas Heinhofer described the decision as a mistake, saying the bank did not know that Cajigal-Ramirez had Austrian citizenship.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said “about 100 dual nationals were affected,” adding that those who retained Cuban citizenship even while acquiring a new one were still subject to The Cuban Assets Control Regulations prohibiting U.S. citizens and corporations from doing business with Cuba or Cuban nationals.

Asked for comment, U.S. Embassy spokesman William H. Wanlund said: “A foreign subsidy of a U.S. corporation is considered a U.S. corporation for the purposes of the law.”

Cajigal-Ramirez, who left Cuba on a tourist visa nine years ago and never returned, said news that she was no longer welcome at the bank came by letter Tuesday, informing her that all her accounts at her hometown branch would be closed.

“We first laughed,” she said, recalling telling her husband that bank authorities were probably worried about the connotations of her birthplace — Guantanamo Bay, site of the high-security U.S. military prison for terror suspects.

But she said that after being told by an employee at her local branch that the bank did not want to do business with those “originating from Cuba,” her mood turned to anger.

“I have been a customer at BAWAG for the last the nine years,” said Cajigal-Ramirez, 35. “This is a question of violating my human rights.”

And the US Government wonders why much of the rest of the world hates the US and applaudes Cuba for standing up to bullying, overbearing and illegal acts?

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 25, 2007 by Don

    The Helms Burton act is the bassis of the USA Cuban embargo.

    Below is an extensive article on the Helms Burton act that not only is rejected by the international community as WTO, the European Union, United Nations, the National Association of Manufactures, and the US Chamber of Commerce; and independent countries as Canada, Germany, Mexico, Vietnam, China,  just to start the long list. 

    The Helms Burton act is clearly in violation of international law.


    It is also mentioned that the act clearly puts the USA at a disadvantage in international trade, and that works in favor for countries as Canada, China, Vietnam, German, (to say a few) by not having to deal with the US competition. The lists of countries that have passed laws negating the act are growing, as Canadian business will abide by Canadian law and not be dictated to by a foreign power.

    So abhorring is the Helms Burton act that parts of the act have not been fully implemented, as Title 3. If Title 3 was implemented that would give way for USA Palestine citizens to sue in US courts for the recovery of land taken by Israel.  Canada has put the US on notice that if Title 3 is implemented they will sue for the recovery of lands taken from the Canadian Indians by the USA.

    The article above (in this thread) is a classic example, the Helms Burton act is a failure, how the USA wants to damage people long disassociated with the Cuban government and using USA corporations to intrude into the internal workings and affairs of other countries.

    By the EU standards, as fact,  and I highly suspect that of Austria laws that is a member of the EU, the Cubans in Austria (being citizens of Austria) can take the USA bank to Austria court for clearly being discriminatory to as to place of origin and ethnic discrimination. To discriminate by ethnic background and national origin is illegal to do in the USA, by civil codes (Torts), and statutes. It is fact that Cuban Americans can deal with this bank but Austria Cubans cannot? This is insane and extremely lopsided in international law standards. When the USA is called an “imperialist” by definition of the word, in this regard and situation, “Imperialist” is a fitting word.

    The Helms Burton act more than likely will be stuck down by the USA Supreme Court, given time and a case brought before the judicial panel, rather than the US Congress taking the chance to anger the anti-Cuban crowd in the USA.

    This Austria Cuban citizen is sitting in “prime position” to enforce international law and strike a fatal blow to the Helms Burton act in her new home “Austria”. I hope she uses all her resources to take that bank court as that is where real power and authority exist greater than any gun.

    Total word count 484.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 25, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    “I feel anguish and disappointment,” she said Friday by phone from her home in Frankenmarkt, a village of 4,000 people about 20 miles northeast of Salzburg. “I think I am a victim of discrimination.”

    Oh woe is she!!!  She needs to get over it, I don’t feel sorry for her.  She lives in Austria, she’s not hungry, she has access to medicine and she certainly has civil rights.  This is obviously a bureaucratic policy problem with that bank.  If she can solve it that’s great.  If she can’t well there are other banks.  The only Cubans with a real world hard plight are Cubans that live in Cuba.  If there is reason to end the Embargo it’s for the people living and dying in Cuba, certainly not for me in U.S. or she in Europe.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 25, 2007 by Don

    Yes for fact, there are, more than likely, other banks in Austria for her to deal with; as from what I have read, Austria is a very modern country. See the “CIA world fact book” and other sites on Austria.

    However, I disagree that Cuba is a dying nation, but rather being prosperous as they can—better than 5 years ago. I am open minded in spite of how many times the Publisher deletes me. However, until some one puts facts on my table, not easily discounted as propaganda, I have every reason to stand my ground. I understand, more than you know, being held captive, wanting to fly or even run with a strong body and mind, being 100% law abiding, and I “can’t” by governmental forces IN THE USA not Cuba.

    Therefore, I highly recommend going to court and sue the daylights out of who stands in my way,  as that is where factual authority exists i.e. in the courts.

    In the USA, taking maters of importance to court is highly economically profitable. I highly, by any means available to me, say I want the same system in Cuba. The foundations are there, in that island, and that is where democracy is manifested (in the courts) along with human justice in foreign countries as in Austria.

    I say the same NO LESS to the Cuban(s) of Austria being a citizen of Austria. She was wronged, by the report, and wrongs need to be set right, and I do not go silently into the night. I will not be driven back to the dark ages by Castro, nor Bush. People do not know what descent is until they have gone to court as a way of life.  No wonder Bush hates the courts and tries to use Cuba as an escape goat (Gismo) for his incompetence.

    If you are party, a victim, to an injustice—never stay silent, and take the offending party to court.  Sorry I got distracted.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 26, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    You haven’t the vagist clue what your talking about.  As a matter of fact, all your postings only serve to tire other readers thus ending the threads in a bust.  If busting the thread is not your intent then I suggest you take a course in Latin American Studies at your local liberal arts college maybe even take a jaunt into Cuba itself before you even think about radically attaching yourself to any one side.  Gosh, your opinions at times really merit psychological evaluation. 

    As for what I meant for my prior posting perhaps I am too informal with my written opinions.  What I really meant is that it just seems to me that people living in the most freest and open of societies tend to also be the most coddled.  Her claim of discrimination sounds like a fake problem and like the so many other such dilemas that I am privy to here in NY on a daily basis.  She should put her situation in perspective to the real problems other people have in the world including her paisanos before she claims she’s suffering with “anguish”.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on April 26, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I don’t know why it’s even a story really? How did she get her story to the press? Was the AP digging up the story?

    Regarding Don, I think/hope he is taking a break.

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