BY GEORGE GEDDA | Associated Press
The top officers of the resort chain Superclubs have been told that they will be denied entry into the United States.
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has notified a Jamaica-based resort firm that its top officers will be denied entry to the United States because of investments the company has made on property confiscated from Americans in Cuba.
Letters were sent to officers of Superclubs, a resort chain with properties throughout the Caribbean, including several in Cuba, according to a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified.
Visas would be denied to top executives and shareholders and to their spouses and minor children starting 45 days after the date on the letters. It was not clear how many people would be affected.
Efforts to reach a Superclubs spokeswoman in Jamaica on Thursday were unsuccessful.
The authority for canceling visas is contained in legislation approved in 1996. One expressed purpose of the law, sponsored by former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., is to discourage foreign companies from investing in Cuba on properties confiscated from Americans. Such seizures were common in the early years of the Cuban revolution.
The 45-day grace period will enable Superclubs to reconsider its investment in Cuba, the official said. It is not clear whether the U.S. action applies to more than one Superclubs property there.
The Title IV provision of the Helms-Burton law has been invoked only on rare occasion over the years. Shortly after the legislation was signed by President Clinton in 1996, it was imposed against Sherritt International Corp., a Canadian mining firm.
Two weeks ago, the Bush administration vowed to aggressively pursue enforcement of Title IV as part of a series of measures aimed at weakening Fidel Castro’s government. The new policy also calls for the deployment of additional personnel to strengthen that enforcement.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from South Florida, has strongly supported enforcing Title IV as a means of discouraging foreign companies from investing in Cuba. She said that she had not been notified of the action against Superclubs but that it did not come as a surprise.
‘‘If true, this is great news,’’ she said in an interview.
Robert Muse, an international lawyer and expert on Cuban affairs, said the administration probably pursued a Jamaica-based target because Jamaica lacks strategic importance compared to some European Union countries that could be subject to Title IV action. The most prominent potential EU target would be the Spanish-based Sol Melia hotel chain, which has numerous properties in Cuba.
The EU regards Title IV as a violation of World Trade Organization rules, Muse said, but it has said it will not file a complaint as long as no EU company is targeted.