Cuba Travel

Jamaican hotel chain SuperClubs to close 2 resorts in Cuba under U.S. pressure: South Florida Sun-Se

Posted June 19, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Travel.

By Doreen Hemlock | Business Writer | Sun Sentinel
The Bush administration’s get-tough policy against Cuba has scored a controversial victory: A Jamaican hotel chain confirmed it’s ceasing operations on a property confiscated by Fidel Castro’s government from Cuban-Americans, some now living in South Florida.

Jamaica’s SuperClubs Super-Inclusive Resorts said it’s withdrawing from the 480-room Breezes Costa Verde resort in Holguín province, after the U.S. State Department threatened to deny U.S. visas for its top executives for “trafficking” on property claimed by the Sánchez-Hill family.

Yet Washington’s decision to single out the Jamaican firm—and not threaten European or Canadian firms operating on property confiscated from Americans—raised concern Thursday over whether the United States is strong-arming a small nation with little political weight. Spain’s Sol Melia, for instance, has never been given final visa notice despite operations on the same Holguín property.

“If this was meant to be a principled application of the law, why has it been applied only to the weakest of the companies in terms of their national government’s support for them?” asked Robert L. Muse, an international attorney in Washington, D.C. long active on Cuba issues. “Clearly, we appear to be a bully.”

Even the Miami lawyer for the Cuban-American claimants saw U.S. foreign relations at play in threats against the Jamaican firm and not others.

“Obviously, Jamaica carries far less political clout than the European Union or Canada,” said Nicholas J. Gutierrez, who represents the Sanchez-Hills in claiming some 100,000 acres of waterfront land confiscated by Cuba’s communist-led government. “And the fact that Jamaica gave asylum to [former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide probably did not endear them to the United States.”

SuperClubs acted after receiving U.S. notice May 6 that it had 45 days to leave the confiscated Cuban property or settle with the former owners, or else, lose U.S. visas for its top executives and their families.

The notice invoked provisions of the 1996 Helms-Burton law, which allows sanctions against foreign companies on land seized from U.S. citizens or U.S. companies in Cuba, but has been widely criticized abroad as overstepping the limits of U.S. jurisdiction.

The Clinton administration sent out similar notices four times soon after Helms-Burton was passed. Grupo Domos, a Monterrey, Mexico, company looking to invest in former ITT telecom properties, withdrew from that Cuban venture. Execs of Sherritt International Corp. of Canada, operating in a nickel mine claimed by a U.S. company, and of Israeli-led BM Group, operating on a citrus farm claimed by U.S. owners, now are barred from U.S. entry, Muse said.

But the Bush administration never invoked the Helms-Burton provision until it began getting tough on Cuba this election year and bolstering support among hardliners in the Cuban-American community, especially in the key battleground state of Florida.

SuperClubs made an easy first target, because Jamaica—a nation of 2 million people that opposed the U.S. war in Iraq—lacks “a substantial commercial, economic or political constituency that is going to be upset about it,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which monitors U.S.-Cuba business.

SuperClubs’ vice president of marketing Zein Issa summed up the problems as political too.

“We were caught in the middle of an international political struggle, and we were the victim,” she said Thursday from Jamaica, declining to elaborate.

Issa confirmed SuperClubs also is withdrawing from a separate Cuban venture not on the disputed property, the newly opened, 436-room Gran Lido Varadero. Travel industry sources said Cuba’s government pushed SuperClubs out in punishment for its buckling to Washington.

The moves leave SuperClubs with two Cuban ventures: the 276-room Breezes Varadero and 225-room Breezes Jibacoa. The company had been the second-largest hotel operator in Cuba after Sol Melia.

Staff Writers Alva James-Johnson and Rafael Lorente contributed to this report.

Doreen Hemlock can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 305-810-5009

Member Comments

On June 19, 2004, publisher wrote:

Very sad turn of events.

Bush seems to be strong arming his way around the world.

Did Castro steal land and businesses? Yes.

Did he take the land and businesses over 40 years ago? Yes.

Should the victims get over it after four decades? Yes.

On June 22, 2004, MJD wrote:

I can’t agree on your point that The Cuban Americans who were victimized 40 years ago should give up their land.The US Interst office in Havana has archived every single deed of every single piece of property that existed pre-Castro. That has to be reconciled. Surely land owned by Baptista cronies is in that mix.As well as honest hard working Cuban familes who earned it fairly.All this has to be taken into consideration and in due time it will.Never the less ,,,In fairness to the people who have worked for 100 pesos /month for 40 years who have been living in these properties. Where will they go ?? What can they afford ?? Who will defend them ?? Democracy in a bottle will not resolve this problem. A broad based econonomic rebuilding of Cuba must be implemented and fully established before the issue of property rights can be discussed and resolved fairly.Cuba could easily become another situation similar to the post communism Russia where the bad guys stepped in to take advantage. Our worse like a situation in Iraq if our Government does not think this through clearly. Given this I have zero confidence in the current administration to pull this off…

On June 22, 2004, CubanitoCT wrote:

greed and politics, that is all that is at play; bush will not be re-elected, pleasing a few cubans while pissing off the rest of the 800K that do vote is not a wise idea.. then again, what matters are electoral votes, not people votes..

On July 03, 2004, Andrew Butchers wrote:

And remember that the Cuban government has come to terms with the governments of all other former owners of confiscated properties.  It is only the US which refused to even talk about the point.

On November 15, 2004, ERS wrote:

If Super-Clubs wants to bow to US economic terrorism, then it’ their loss.

I stayed at the “Super-Clubs Breezes Costa Verde” last year, and I will be staying at the “Gaviota Playa Costa Verde” this year!

On March 07, 2006, dave fippard wrote:

Is Andrew Butchers “my foam-filled son of the sea” and is “Dale Ardent” still “clinging to his loins”?

On March 07, 2006, dave fippard wrote:

By which I mean, If this guy is from Sussex, England; then I’d like to say Hi.