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Posted May 26, 2009 by publisher in OFAC

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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Sol Melia, a publicly traded corporation based in Spain, is a well known hotel operator in Cuba yet they have a business office in Miami, have a business interest in the Paramount Hotel in New York City and have dozens of domain names registered at US based registrar GoDaddy.

This article entices one to ask why a corporation with such a large business interest in Cuba can have a US office and domains at a US based registrar while not having any compliance issues with OFAC.

I was motivated to research Sol Melia’s ties to the US and to write this article since the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana Cuba was shown on video by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez to be denying her internet access solely because she is a Cuban citizen.

First the issue of domain names, then the Miami office then the Paramount Hotel.

Domain Names at GoDaddy

Our daily domain research has revealed that Sol Melia has registered more .us domain names at US based registrar GoDaddy on May 25 adding to a number of .us domain names that they have had registered there since 2004. This article does not imply that GoDaddy is doing anything wrong. Without investigation, there is no way for GoDaddy to know about a registrant’s ties to Cuba so they have been sent a link to this article and asked for a comment.

Why Sol Melia chose GoDaddy as their registrar is interesting for several reasons:

1. Sol Melia is a large multinational corporation with an extremely large business presence in Cuba which means they are working very closely with the Cuban government. For this reason, they would most likely consider the choice to use a US based registrar very carefully. 

2. The domains are registered at US based registrar GoDaddy.

3. In order to own a .us domain, the individual or corporation must have a US presence.

4. Stephen Marshall, who had no ties to the US, had his domains seized by enom at OFAC’s request while his only ties to the US were that his domains were registered at US based registrar enom.

As you read about the domains below, you need to know that if you visit SolMelia.com from a US based IP address, you will not see Cuba as a country destination. It would appear that this is a corporate strategy to avoid any OFAC compliance problems. You also need to know that SolMeliaCuba.com is registered at a Canada based, Dotster owned or affiliated company. Also, SolMeliaCuba.net, which is used as a nameserver address, is registered at Gandi, a France based company. So, one would wonder why GoDaddy was selected to register other domain names.

All of the domain names listed below feature the same public whois information and are registered at GoDaddy:

Registrant: Francisco Antonio Camps Orfila
Organization: Sol Melia
City: Palma de Mallorca
Country: Spain
Email: compras.online AT solmeliacuba.com

The use of the solmeliacuba.com email address would imply that this registrant has ties to Sol Melia’s Cuba hotel business.

These domains were registered on 3/12/2004 with nameservers set to NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.

cubahavana.us
cubaparadisus.us
go2havana.us
gotovaradero.us
hotelparadisus.us
paradisushotel.us

These domains were registered on 11/8/04 with nameservers set to DOTCOM.SOLWAYSCUBA.COM and NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.

5-starcubahotels.com
Bookcubahotels.com
bookingcubahotels.com
carsincuba.com
cubagolfpackages.com
cubahoneymoonpackages.com
cubahoteloffers.com
cubahotelsnetwork.com
cubahotelstravel.com
cubahotelsweb.com
cubaoffers.com
cubapackages.com
cubatravel.tv
e-cubatravel.com
e-solways.com (forwards to solwayscuba.com)
e-traveltocuba.com
flyingtocuba.com
lastminutehabana.com
lastminutehavana.com
lastminutevaradero.com
solmeliacuba.tv
solwayscuba.com (used as nameserver)
Topcubadeals.com
topcubadestinations.com
tpchannel.com
traveltocuba.tv

These domains were registered on 5/31/2005 with nameservers set to NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.

solmeliacuba.info
solmeliacuba.org
solmeliacuba.biz
solmeliacuba.us

These domains were registered on 5/25/09 with nameservers set to DOTCOM.SOLWAYSCUBA.COM but none of the domains resolve to websites.

carrentalcuba.us
carrentalincuba.us
congressesincuba.us
conventionsincuba.us
cubahoteldeals.us
cubahotelsreservation.us
cubahoteltraveldeals.us
cubaluxuryhotelrooms.us
cubaluxuryhotels.us
cubareservations.us
cubatravelreservation.us
flightsincubareservations.us
hotelsincubareservations.us

All the Sol Melia domain names registered at GoDaddy (that we know of)

5-starcubahotels.com
Adorecuba.com
Alad2007.com
Alapac2009.com
Allinclusivecuba.com
Avicultura2009.com
Ayuntamientoshabana.com
Beachotel.com
Bookcubahotels.com
bookingcubahotels.com
carrentalcuba.us
carrentalincuba.com
carrentalincuba.us
carsincuba.com
cayocuba.com
Chemistrycuba.com
Cictahabana.com
Ciercuba.com
cohiba-habanacafe.com
Colacmarcuba2009.com
Complejidadhabana.com
Congreso-info.com
Congresocniccuba.com
Congressesincuba.com
congressesincuba.us
Convencion-otu-cuba.com
Conventionsincuba.com
conventionsincuba.us
cuba-allinclusive.com
Cuba-cirugia-pediatrica.com
cuba-habanacafe.com
cuba-varadero.com
cubaallinclusiveresort.com
cubaallinclusivetravel.com
cubaallinclusivevacation.com
Cubacienciasdelatierra.com
cubagolfpackages.com
cubahavana.us
cubahavanatravel.com
cubahoneymoondestination.com
cubahoneymoonpackages.com
cubahoneymoonvacation.com
cubahoteldeals.us
cubahoteloffers.com
cubahotelsnetwork.com
cubahotelsreservation.info
cubahotelsreservation.us
cubahotelstravel.com
cubahotelsweb.com
cubahoteltraveldeals.com
cubahoteltraveldeals.us
cubahoteltraveldeasl.com
cubakeys.com
cubaluxuryhotelrooms.com
cubaluxuryhotelrooms.us
cubaluxuryhotels.us
Cubaluxuryroom.com
Cubaluxuryrooms.com
Cubambiente.com
cubaoffers.com
cubapackages.com
cubaparadisus.com
cubaparadisus.us
cubareservations.us
cubasolmelia.com
cubatravel.tv
cubatravelreservation.info
cubatravelreservation.us
cubatryp.com
cubavinales.com
cubavinalestour.com
cubaweddingpackage.com
e-cubatravel.com
e-solways.com
e-traveltocuba.com
Etnomedicina2009.com
eventsincuba.com
Fesacac2008.com
flightsincuba.com
flightsincubareservations.com
flightsincubareservations.us
flyingtocuba.com
freeweddingcuba.com
gardenvillascuba.com
Gerontogercuba.com
go2havana.com
go2havana.us
go2varadero.com
gocubadirect.com
golfmelia.com
golfparadisus.com
gotovaradero.us
havanamelia.com
Hematologia2009.com
holguinspa.com
honeymooncayo.com
honeymoonpackagecuba.com
honeymoonparadisus.com
honeymoonsincuba.com
honeymoonvacationcuba.com
hotelparadisus.us
hotelsincubareservations.com
hotelsincubareservations.us
lastminutehabana.com
lastminutehavana.com
lastminutevaradero.com
letsgocuba.com
Longevidad-cuba.com
Martiylanaturaleza.com
melia-cayococo.com
melia-cayoguillermo.com
melia-cayosantamaria.com
melia-cohiba.com
melia-habana.com
melia-lasamericas.com
melia-lasantillas.com
melia-lasdunas.com
melia-santiagodecuba.com
melia-varadero.com
meliacuba.com
meliagolf.com
Neurorehabana.com
Oncologiahabana.com
packages-allinclusive.com
Paradiso-cuba.com
paradisus-princesadelmar.com
paradisus-riodeoro.com
paradisus-varadero.com
paradisuscuba.com
paradisusgolf.com
paradisushotel.us
paradisusofcuba.com
paradisusresort.com
Pediatriacuba2008.com
Psicohabana.com
Psicosalud2008.com
Ras2009.com
Rehabilitacioncuba.com
resort-allinclusive.com
resortcuba.com
Restauracionneurologica.com
Sanidadvegetalcuba.com
santiagocafe.com
sol-cayococo.com
sol-cayoguillermo.com
sol-cayolargo.com
sol-cayosantamaria.com
sol-palmeras.com
sol-pelicano.com
sol-riodelunaymares.com
sol-sirenascoral.com
solcaribetours.com
solmeliacuba.biz
solmeliacuba.info
solmeliacuba.org
solmeliacuba.tv
solmeliacuba.us
solmeliacubamap.com
solmeliacubaonline.com
solmeliacubata.com
solmeliagolf.com
solmeliaonline.com
solmeliawedding.com
solways.com
Solwayscanada.com
solwayschile.com
solwayscuba.com
solwayscuba.us
Solwaysdenmark.com
solwaysdreams.com
Solwaysgermany.com
Solwaysjapan.com
solwayspackages.com
Solwaysuk.com
solwaysvacation.com
solwaysvacations.com
teetimecuba.com
thehabanacafe.com
Topcubadeals.com
topcubadestinations.com
tpchannel.com
travel-allinclusive.com
travelagentscuba.com
traveltocuba.tv
tryp-cayococo.com
tryp-habanalibre.com
tryp-peninsulavaradero.com
trypcuba.com
trypresort.com
Universidad2010.com
Urgravcuba.com
Urologiacuba.com
vacation-allinclusive.com
varaderocafe.com
varaderohoneymoon.com
varaderomelia.com
varaderospa.com
varaderowedding.com
Villaclarakeys.com
weddingcayo.com
weddingcubachannel.com
weddingparadisus.com
weddingplanningcuba.com

SolMeliaCuba.com

Sol Melia has SolMeliaCuba.com registered at 000DOM (a Dotster company or affiliate out of Canada) with the publicly listed whois email address of francisco.camps AT solmeliacuba.com . It was registered on 3/21/2000 and using the NS1.SOLMELIACUBA.NET nameserver. This is Sol Melia’s website that is dedicated to Cuba.

SolMeliaCuba.net

This domain name is used as a nameserver. The whois information shows that the email adddress is privacy protected and registered at GANDI SAS, a France based company. It should be noted that the following information is also in the whois for this domain name only:

Organisation: GESMESOL, SA
Address: 5ta Avenida #2008, esquina 22
City: La Habana
Country: Cuba

Sol Melia’s Miami Office

Since registrants of .us domains must be United States citizens, residents, organizations or a foreign entity with a presence in the United States, Sol Melia’s Miami office qualifies them to own .us domains.

Their Miami office is located at 800 Brickell Avenue Suite 1000 in Miami, FL 33131. This is the same information on the whois for the domain name Sol-Melia.com. This domain is registered at Network Solutions with the email address of ulisess AT sol-group.com and was registered on 10/2/1996. Ulises Salas of the Sol Group is the registrant. The domain forwards to SolMelia.com.

The domain Sol-Group.com is registered to this same registrant.

Since Sol Melia has this office in Miami, Sol Melia has a physical presence and operates a business in the United States. I am not familiar with all the nuances and interpretations of OFAC compliance issues but one has to wonder how Sol Melia can operate their tourism business in Miami without having any OFAC compliance issues since they are owned by, or at least associated with, the same corporation that has about two dozen hotels in Cuba.

Lastly regarding Sol Melia’s US based business, Hotelsolmelia.com is registered at a non-US registrar but uses dns.solmelia.org as a nameserver. SolMelia.org is also registered at a non-US registrar but it is interesting that the nameserver for solmelia.org is DNS27.REGISTER.COM. Register.com is a publicly traded US corporation. I’m not sure why Sol Melia would have SolMelia.org set to a Register.com (a US based, publicly traded corporation) nameserver. SolMelia.org forwards to SolMelia.com

Paramount Hotel in New York City

When I called Sol Melia’s Miami office at 305-350-9828 after hours, the voice recording mentioned the Paramount Hotel in New York City. A visit to NYCParamount.com shows the site uses a paramount-nyc.com corporate email address. Paramount-nyc.com is registered to Sol Melia so it appears that Sol Melia owns, operates or at least has some sort of business ties to the Paramount hotel in New York City.

So, how does a Spanish business with hotels in Cuba have so many domains registered with a US based registrar and have a business interest in a hotel in New York City without any OFAC compliance issues?

Sol Melia, OFAC, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, Register.com, NeuStar (the .us registry), the Paramount Hotel and Sol Melia’s Miami office have been sent a link to this article and have been asked for comments. Any replies will be posted below.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 26, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Sol Melia is making billions in Cuba, exploiting the Cuban people with the usual complacency of the Castro Regime. Anybody can invest in Cuba except the Cubans.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 27, 2009 by grant with 48 total posts

    SolMelia is not denying internet to cubans, there is no access except for emails. Billions? what a laugh. Anybody can stay at a SolMelia hotel cuban or foreigner. Many cubans do so with money from relatives living overseas.BUT to allow the exploiters to return to invest no way.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 27, 2009 by John McAuliff

    Some reality, please.

    1)  The lobby of the Melia Cohiba constantly has people using their laptops, sending e-mail and going on the internet.  The only technical limitation is that the connection is often agonizingly slow.

    2)  Patrons include guests and visitors, some of whom may have been Cubans.  When I was there in early May I was never asked for my passport or room number when I bought a time card.

    3) People must pay for the service, just as in most US hotels.  It is expensive, 12 CUC for two hours, but invaluable for work or personal reasons and did not exist until last year. 

    4)  Sol Melia, like any business in any country, must follow local laws and regulations, even if it does not agree with them.  (OFAC introduced extra-territoriality into regulations, forcing US owned hotels to exclude Cuban guests and even to bar meetings in which Cubans participated.)

    5)  Cuba has had very limited and expensive band width because the US blocked it from accessing a nearby fiber optic cable.  President Obama has in principle opened the door to making the connection, but no regulations have yet been announced to implement the policy.

    6)  In effect Cuba made a decision to ration the available band width in accord with national priorities rather than market demand.  For better or worse that is the kind of country Cuba is.  Until normal band width is available, the role of repressive political motives in controlling access is not clear. 

    7)  A hotel could reasonably decide that access to its wireless router is restricted to guests simply on the basis that the more people using the system, the slower it runs.  A rule that discriminated between Cuban and non-Cuban guests or between Cuban and non-Cuban non-guests raises different issues.

    8) If such a rule was imposed by ETECSA or the Ministry of Tourism, it was dumb and reflective of the defensive attitude that limits civil liberties for critics of the government, especially those who are linked to foreign supporters. 

    9)  While it is easy to be self righteous about such limits, Americans might reflect upon our own history when we believe our security and independence are threatened, from the Palmer Raids to McCarthyism to post-9/11 suspension of habeas corpus, secret and unlimited detentions without trial, etc.—not to mention the decades long loss of our right to travel to Cuba for reasons of domestic politics.

    10)  I believe Cuba is more likely to open up and relax internal controls when the hostility and threat posed by the US ends.  That is what happened in both Vietnam and China.  Although they still have problems, so do we, as seen by the opportunistic votes in Congress on closing Guantanamo.

    11)  Attacking Sol Melia only makes sense if you believe in the logic of embargo to bring about democratic change.  I have no idea what fees are received by Sol Melia Cuba for the properties they manage in the country, but I doubt they yield anywhere near billions of dollars.

    12)  Presumably a common sense explanation of the registration of domains is anticipation of the day that reason governs the US and we end all travel restrictions.  If the domains aren’t active in handling US funds, there would be no violation of OFAC regs.  Publicity and information have not been made illegal in the US. 

    13)  There is nothing wrong legally or morally for a foreign company trying to protect itself from bizarre and unjust US laws by setting up a separate legal entity to do business in Cuba. 

    14)  When foreigners make an international symbol of critics of any government, they may do so out of the belief that they are helping and protecting the person, but it may result in the isolation of that person and alienation from the process of real internal change.  It is also hard to judge the extent to which the words that are written and the positions that are taken are shaped by their appeal to foreign supporters and even to create the drama of being repressed.

    15)  Just as the US would serve its own interests better by backing off and permitting Cuba to solve its own problems in its own way, the Cubans would be better off if they ignored dissident bloggers and thus did not make them international symbols.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 27, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Some good points John.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 28, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Few trues and lot of crap. Go back and live like a regular Cuban instead of showing your passport while staying at the Melia, them you can come back and tell us about reality.
    Do you feel that the Melia is the Cuban reality?


  6. Follow up post #6 added on May 28, 2009 by nacho with 111 total posts

    To John McAuliff

    I think you DO NEED some reality next time you go to Cuba! My comments in ()

    1)  The lobby of the Melia Cohiba constantly has people using their laptops, sending e-mail and going on the internet.  The only technical limitation is that the connection is often agonizingly slow.

    (Hotels are not Cuba, period. Agreed, connection is slow and also websites are censored)

    2)  Patrons include guests and visitors, some of whom may have been Cubans.  When I was there in early May I was never asked for my passport or room number when I bought a time card.

    (Lucky you, I have to show up my passport at all times, ... oops that’s because I AM CUBAN)

    3) People must pay for the service, just as in most US hotels.  It is expensive, 12 CUC for two hours, but invaluable for work or personal reasons and did not exist until last year. 

    (Outrageously expensive and a money-making machine with few overheads, EXACTLY like US hotels)

    4)  Sol Melia, like any business in any country, must follow local laws and regulations, even if it does not agree with them.  (OFAC introduced extra-territoriality into regulations, forcing US owned hotels to exclude Cuban guests and even to bar meetings in which Cubans participated.)

    (Sol Melia could follow local laws or just refrain from doing business in Cuba, US-owned hotels excluding Cubans guests ARE in the wrong because they must follow local laws in the country where they are, not OFAC. Following the same line of thought, Sol Melia allow all nationalities as guests in their hotels in Madrid or London, so they MUST allow the Cubans in Sol Melia Cuban hotels, because Sol Melia follows Spanish/European laws, including antidiscrimination laws. By the way, Marriott or Hilton have never stopped me from staying at their hotels, even their US-based ones. Sol Melia, however, refused to allow me stay in the Melia Santiago, asking for my European passport when Cuba does not allow for dual nationality.)

    5)  Cuba has had very limited and expensive band width because the US blocked it from accessing a nearby fiber optic cable.  President Obama has in principle opened the door to making the connection, but no regulations have yet been announced to implement the policy.
    (Cuba CANNOT afford to pay for a connection, period, they could’ve arranged with Venezuela, China or Telecom Italia which still owns a bit of ETECSA)

    6)  In effect Cuba made a decision to ration the available band width in accord with national priorities rather than market demand.  For better or worse that is the kind of country Cuba is.  Until normal band width is available, the role of repressive political motives in controlling access is not clear. 
    (Not national priorities, just censorship and control, and money-making)

    7)  A hotel could reasonably decide that access to its wireless router is restricted to guests simply on the basis that the more people using the system, the slower it runs.  A rule that discriminated between Cuban and non-Cuban guests or between Cuban and non-Cuban non-guests raises different issues.
    (Well, they did it before, not allowing Cubans to stay in hotels)

    8) If such a rule was imposed by ETECSA or the Ministry of Tourism, it was dumb and reflective of the defensive attitude that limits civil liberties for critics of the government, especially those who are linked to foreign supporters. 
    (ETECSA=Ministry of Tourism=Cuban goverment= siege mentality)

    9)  While it is easy to be self righteous about such limits, Americans might reflect upon our own history when we believe our security and independence are threatened, from the Palmer Raids to McCarthyism to post-9/11 suspension of habeas corpus, secret and unlimited detentions without trial, etc.—not to mention the decades long loss of our right to travel to Cuba for reasons of domestic politics.

    (At least Americans still have the chance and the right to question things like rendition, torture and a long list of etcs. Americans firmly believe that through their democracy, those issues will be dealt with at one point and in the meantime that can question them in the mass media or in their blogs. Cubans have had the same dictatorship for over 50 years and no rights to comment or criticise the goverment or vent their feelings via a blog)

    10)  I believe Cuba is more likely to open up and relax internal controls when the hostility and threat posed by the US ends.  That is what happened in both Vietnam and China.  Although they still have problems, so do we, as seen by the opportunistic votes in Congress on closing Guantanamo.

    (Not really but I will not argue on that one, I agree partially)

    11)  Attacking Sol Melia only makes sense if you believe in the logic of embargo to bring about democratic change.  I have no idea what fees are received by Sol Melia Cuba for the properties they manage in the country, but I doubt they yield anywhere near billions of dollars.

    (Yes, their margins and profit are not billions but big enough to keep opening more ventures. Cheap labour, low overheads, captive market, they do make money)

    12)  Presumably a common sense explanation of the registration of domains is anticipation of the day that reason governs the US and we end all travel restrictions.  If the domains aren’t active in handling US funds, there would be no violation of OFAC regs.  Publicity and information have not been made illegal in the US. 
    (Not sure about the OFAC rules either but I also question why it happened to Stephen Marshall and not to Sol Melia)

    13)  There is nothing wrong legally or morally for a foreign company trying to protect itself from bizarre and unjust US laws by setting up a separate legal entity to do business in Cuba. 

    (Morally wrong when it discriminates against the population, or contributes to the exploitation of said population by the goverment. ie same level of those profitting from Sun City in the apartheid years of South Africa or making money from Mugabe’s rule)

    14)  When foreigners make an international symbol of critics of any government, they may do so out of the belief that they are helping and protecting the person, but it may result in the isolation of that person and alienation from the process of real internal change.  It is also hard to judge the extent to which the words that are written and the positions that are taken are shaped by their appeal to foreign supporters and even to create the drama of being repressed.
    (say what?)

    15)  Just as the US would serve its own interests better by backing off and permitting Cuba to solve its own problems in its own way, the Cubans would be better off if they ignored dissident bloggers and thus did not make them international symbols.

    (For starters, Cubans DID NOT make bloggers international symbols. Not many Cubans IN Cuba know any bloggers. Hell very few Cubans in Cuba actually know what the web is, let alone blogging. So called dissident bloggers are symbols of a different voice. Why is dissent a danger? Come on, the HuffPost does not sing from the same sheet as the Obama administration, why would Yoani praise the Cuban goverment? Again, I agree with the fact that the US needs to back off and lift the embargo)


  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 28, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    John and Nacho,

    Thanks for taking the time to write up all your points, very educational.



    Cuba consulting services

  8. Follow up post #8 added on May 28, 2009 by John McAuliff

    To Nacho and other readers, comments on comments in [ ]  I have deleted the points in which there does not seem a point of conflict or clarification.

    To John McAuliff

    I think you DO NEED some reality next time you go to Cuba! My comments in ()

    1)  The lobby of the Melia Cohiba constantly has people using their laptops, sending e-mail and going on the internet.  The only technical limitation is that the connection is often agonizingly slow.

    (Hotels are not Cuba, period. Agreed, connection is slow and also websites are censored)

    [Four and five star hotels in any country, especially in the “third world” are never the country.  The best (and least expensive) way to understand the complex reality of Cuba is to stay in a casa particular.  Hostile websites are blocked in Cuba just as they are in Vietnam and China.  I don’t agree with it, but it is not my country.]

    2)  Patrons include guests and visitors, some of whom may have been Cubans.  When I was there in early May I was never asked for my passport or room number when I bought a time card.

    (Lucky you, I have to show up my passport at all times, ... oops that’s because I AM CUBAN) 

    [My assumption if you say you are asked to show a passport, is that you are a Cuban resident in the US or elsewhere.  Are you a regular and recent visitor?  Were you asked to show a passport at any time other than at check-in, the norm for all guests?  Certainly Cubans aren’t asked to show their i.d. simply to be in the lobby.  Cuban friends regularly meet me there.  I honestly don’t know whether people who were potentially Cuban were asked to show an identity card when they bought a time card.  In any case, that would not control much as someone else could buy the card and hand it to the blogger. There is no further identification required at sign-in.]


    4)  Sol Melia, like any business in any country, must follow local laws and regulations, even if it does not agree with them.  (OFAC introduced extra-territoriality into regulations, forcing US owned hotels to exclude Cuban guests and even to bar meetings in which Cubans participated.)

    (Sol Melia could follow local laws or just refrain from doing business in Cuba, US-owned hotels excluding Cubans guests ARE in the wrong because they must follow local laws in the country where they are, not OFAC. Following the same line of thought, Sol Melia allow all nationalities as guests in their hotels in Madrid or London, so they MUST allow the Cubans in Sol Melia Cuban hotels, because Sol Melia follows Spanish/European laws, including antidiscrimination laws. By the way, Marriott or Hilton have never stopped me from staying at their hotels, even their US-based ones. Sol Melia, however, refused to allow me stay in the Melia Santiago, asking for my European passport when Cuba does not allow for dual nationality.)

    [I think it is a positive thing for Cuba and for the Cuban people to have as many international companies as possible operating—including American.  The service Sol Melia provides in the quality of its facilities, and the training of its staff, are an enduring contribution to the growth and development of the country, regardless of how its government evolves.  The daily integration of different ways of doing things and perspectives on life are far more likely to contribute to evolutionary change than isolation.]

    5)  Cuba has had very limited and expensive band width because the US blocked it from accessing a nearby fiber optic cable.  President Obama has in principle opened the door to making the connection, but no regulations have yet been announced to implement the policy.

    (Cuba CANNOT afford to pay for a connection, period, they could’ve arranged with Venezuela, China or Telecom Italia which still owns a bit of ETECSA)

    [You are factually wrong.  The problem has been that OFAC blocked access to the cable that runs close to the north coast.  The costs to Cuba would be less than the current satellite connection and paid for by fees for service. The issue now is whether Cuba waits until Venezuela puts in a fiber optic cable.  Maybe someone knows the status of that in terms of contractual obligations and how much Venezuela will charge or absorb for a far more expensive endeavor of laying a cable across the Caribbean.]

    6)  In effect Cuba made a decision to ration the available band width in accord with national priorities rather than market demand.  For better or worse that is the kind of country Cuba is.  Until normal band width is available, the role of repressive political motives in controlling access is not clear.
    (Not national priorities, just censorship and control, and money-making)

    [Could be both the first and second reasons, but the third makes no sense.  If Cuba wanted to make more money, they would permit, and charge connection fees to, internet cafes all over the country just as Vietnam and China do, or at least expand the services through the ETECSA kiosks.  The proof will be in the pudding once the fiber optic connection is made.]

    9)  While it is easy to be self righteous about such limits, Americans might reflect upon our own history when we believe our security and independence are threatened, from the Palmer Raids to McCarthyism to post-9/11 suspension of habeas corpus, secret and unlimited detentions without trial, etc.—not to mention the decades long loss of our right to travel to Cuba for reasons of domestic politics.

    (At least Americans still have the chance and the right to question things like rendition, torture and a long list of etcs. Americans firmly believe that through their democracy, those issues will be dealt with at one point and in the meantime that can question them in the mass media or in their blogs. Cubans have had the same dictatorship for over 50 years and no rights to comment or criticise the goverment or vent their feelings via a blog)

    [And Cuba for fifty years has been under threat from a very near by immensely richer and more powerful country with a proclivity towards military and covert intervention for purposes of regime change, not to mention attempted assassinations.  The fifty years before the revolution don’t offer a consistent alternative of civil liberties, participatory democracy and political and economic sovereignty a.k.a. national freedom.  Liberalization in the US approach to Cuba engenders liberalization within Cuba, and vice versa.]


    11)  Attacking Sol Melia only makes sense if you believe in the logic of embargo to bring about democratic change.  I have no idea what fees are received by Sol Melia Cuba for the properties they manage in the country, but I doubt they yield anywhere near billions of dollars.

    (Yes, their margins and profit are not billions but big enough to keep opening more ventures. Cheap labour, low overheads, captive market, they do make money)

    [If they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t keep doing it.  Virtually all of the “foreign hotels” are contracts for management, with only a few joint ventures.  As is often the case in the US, one company owns the building and another manages and brands it.  Sol Melia is by far the biggest, but by no means the only foreign management entrepreneur.]

    12)  Presumably a common sense explanation of the registration of domains is anticipation of the day that reason governs the US and we end all travel restrictions.  If the domains aren’t active in handling US funds, there would be no violation of OFAC regs.  Publicity and information have not been made illegal in the US.
    (Not sure about the OFAC rules either but I also question why it happened to Stephen Marshall and not to Sol Melia)

    [Stephen was doing business through the sites, i.e. offering an on-line way to get around travel restrictions.  In any case, one more outrage by the Bush era OFAC.]

    13)  There is nothing wrong legally or morally for a foreign company trying to protect itself from bizarre and unjust US laws by setting up a separate legal entity to do business in Cuba.

    (Morally wrong when it discriminates against the population, or contributes to the exploitation of said population by the goverment. ie same level of those profitting from Sun City in the apartheid years of South Africa or making money from Mugabe’s rule)

    [The moral argument would be over doing business in an imperfect country not over finding ways to combat US unilateralism and regime change strategy.  Presumably the same moral concern you have extends to US companies doing business in Saudi Arabia, China, etc. etc.  Embargoes are a dubious tactic in any situation, but simply stupid when they are unilateral.  In addition to effectiveness, one must wonder why everyone else in the world sees things differently.]


    15)  Just as the US would serve its own interests better by backing off and permitting Cuba to solve its own problems in its own way, the Cubans would be better off if they ignored dissident bloggers and thus did not make them international symbols.

    (For starters, Cubans DID NOT make bloggers international symbols. Not many Cubans IN Cuba know any bloggers. Hell very few Cubans in Cuba actually know what the web is, let alone blogging. So called dissident bloggers are symbols of a different voice. Why is dissent a danger? Come on, the HuffPost does not sing from the same sheet as the Obama administration, why would Yoani praise the Cuban goverment? Again, I agree with the fact that the US needs to back off and lift the embargo)

    [Agreed it is the international community, for good motives and ill, that has given Yoani her visibility.  No doubt some people in Cuba would completely agree with her and others find her divisive or irrelevant.  Cuba pretty much left the bloggers alone until they were built up as international symbols of opposition. 

    I don’t think criticism is a danger but I am of a very different culture, political system and history.  Personally I wish Cuba had a much more open and critical media, not just via the internet. I believe the work I am doing to end repressive US policies of Presidential and Congressional travel restrictions contributes toward that end. 

    My concern is that the international community misses the potential for real reform within Cuba by paying disproportionate attention to self-marginalized bloggers and other dissidents who speak in words and tones that are most familiar and comfortable to foreign ears.  I encourage readers to give attention to havanatimes.com edited by an American living in Cuba and progressoweekly.com which emanates from Florida but often publishes critiques from intellectuals and journalists in Cuba.]

    I am happy to continue this dialogue, but prefer to know who “Nacho” is.  With few exceptions, I find the internet culture of anonymity to be unproductive and irresponsible.  I believe people should stand publicly by their words.


  9. Follow up post #9 added on May 28, 2009 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Thank you for comments within comments.

    I feel under no obligation to submit identification here but my I can email you my full name. Nacho is a Cuban who lives and works in London, UK and holds UK and Cuban passports. It’s nice to be reading you, Mr John McAuliff, even though I’m not sure of whom you might be. I normally stand by my words.

    Yes, it is my country and I feel strongly regarding what is going on in there.

    I see your points and I feel no need to expand mine or further debate yours, except a couple of matters regarding my personal position.

    I must say that respect your points and find them transparent, engaging and very positive. I admire the way you’ve described your position.

    I agree with having the blockade/embargo lifted, I believe in Cuba’s right to self-determination. I believe that countries should stop threatening to take that right from nations.

    I also believe in freedom of speech.

    To start with, I don’t think we could have had this conversation openly anywhere in Cuba wink

    Quick question: do you travel beyond Havana when you go to Cuba?

    I know of certain towns/cities where internet cafes have been off limits for Cubans living in Cuba ever since they opened. This debate with Sol Melia stopping Cubans using their hotel internet service and then allowing it again, all new to me! My understanding was that Cubans living in Cuba were not allowed into internet cafes unless accompanied by a tourist/resident abroad. I have seen this happen (even before I moved to the UK) in Santiago, Holguin, Guantanamo and Granma. Same applied to Cubans staying in hotels until very recently.

    In 2006 I had a room booked from London to stay in the Melia Santiago. I will not go into details here as that story is all over the place. The hotel requested my European passport to allow me to stay. Do you think is fair that a hotel asks for a European passport in a country that does not permit dual nationality?

    When meeting friends in hotel lobbies etc, they’re normally checked for ID. I admit that it is a step forward that they’re allowed to wait in the lobby instead of at the gates/door wink

    Granted, the OFAC bans access to cable etc, I just wonder why they have not found a way around it with China et al. Maybe because they’re not interested? I remember reading in Juventud Rebelde a note by the Cuban telecom minister something along the lines of “even when we get the Venezuelan cable, internet access will not be for everyone” ... or similar.

    For the record, I find it dubious that the US trades with China and Saudi Arabia and not with Cuba. The human rights record of those two countries is far dirtier that Cuba’s. However, I stand by my position that the embargo is wrong and agree with yours regarding the benefits of international trade and investment.

    I second your encouragement to reading havanatimes and add to that reading Havana Journal that I find an invaluable source of insight and news regarding Cuba (Disclosure: I am NOT affiliated to this site or any of the other business interests of the people behind it, this is a personal opinion)

    I read everything I can about Cuba, from the most right-wing blog to Granma and everything in between.


    I read Yoani’s blog and I can only say that there’s so much criticism of what she writes but I’ve never read anything proving her wrong.

    My other point, everyone’s hopes are pinned on Obama and the changes from the US. Why? Is it because everyone has given up waiting for Cuba to make changes?

    Case in point: Obama relaxes rules about sending money to Cuba, the Cuban goverment keeps the tax on the dollar that was imposed in the name of “monetary sovereignty” when Bush restricted the remittances. It also keeps the exchange rate of the CUC inflated.

    Obama relaxes travel restrictions to Cuban Americans, (not enough, I know, it should be to all Americans) and Cuba keeps the exit permit, Carta Blanca and all the limitation to travel for Cubans.

    Besides all the above, I also wish Cuba had a much more open media and more transparent system.

    Also, whatever work you’re doing to end US policies against Cuba, I praise it. You can count on me for support.


  10. Follow up post #10 added on May 28, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Nacho,

    “I read Yoani’s blog and I can only say that there’s so much criticism of what she writes but I’ve never read anything proving her wrong.”

    Good point.

    John McAuliff is well known and well respected in the Cuba arena.

    He is a regular contributor to the http://thehavananote.com/ website.



    Cuba consulting services

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 28, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Dear Mr. McAuliff when you say “My concern is that the international community misses the potential for real reform within Cuba by paying disproportionate attention to self-marginalized bloggers and other dissidents who speak in words and tones that are most familiar and comfortable to foreign ears” you are actually factually wrong. The international community is putting attention to Yoani simply because she is among the few that were able to divulge the Cuban reality and her ideas effectively.

    Before Yoani and the other bloggers the Cuban Government was always able to suppress the world from knowing what was really going on inside the island.

    Yoani and many other bloggers speak in regular Cuban language, they are not self-marginalized but actually is the Cuban Government that is trying to marginalize them at any costs, something that they were able to do very effectively with the other dissidents since 1959.

    I can assure you that Yoani’s words are very familiar to all Cubans, some “estrange” things that sometimes she mention on her blog, while may sound estrange to many foreigners,  are very common realities to us all.


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