In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
– Saint Augustine
Most readers would have been shocked –– as stunned as the victims themselves –– to learn that Cubans living here, including the Cuban Ambassador to Barbados, can do no business with a company in this country of ours merely because of their nationality and their brand of politics.
Cuba’s Ambassador to Barbados Lissette Perez complained to Barbados TODAY just yesterday that PriceSmart had banned the sale of goods to the Cuban Embassy, and even Cuban nationals in Barbados. She revealed at her Edghill Heights, St Thomas office that just last January the embassy had been written by club manager Terry Mahon and told that as a subsidiary of a United States company, PriceSmart Barbados Inc. could no longer transact business with citizens of Cuba “who do not have permanent residency here or possibly [in] another country”.
Mr Mahon’s letter explained: “In an effort to comply with US laws, we are suspending those accounts which may not be permitted by the laws enacted
in the USA.”
This ungracious and surely unjust step has its roots in United States laws, in contravention of a United Nations General Assembly resolution, which for some 22 years has called for an end to the more than five decades of economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba –– and as recent as towards the end of last year. This resolution received ayes from 188 countries, as opposed to two nays: the United States and, of all countries, Israel.
Since when does a company gain permission to operate in a sovereign state and become empowered by the laws of another jurisdiction to discriminate against that sovereign state’s residents –– permanent or not –– and guests by colour, creed, religion, or politics? Since when do the commercial laws of the United States supersede Barbados’ business and services conventions and principles of its Constitution?
We understand that PriceSmart companies in Jamaica and in Trinidad and Tobago, where Cuba too has ambassadors, have similarly invoke suspensions or curtailment of business with Cubans. Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica Bernardo Guanche Hernandez has labelled PriceSmart’s action as “criminal” and “anachronistic”. We think it is just plain naivety; the manifestation of a paranoia the United States ought to have rid itself of by now. For goodness’ sake, it has been five decades!
For our political leaders not to take a stand against this absurdity and imbecility would be to undermine our mantra, as first espoused by National Hero Errol Walton Barrow, that we will be friends of all and satellites of none. Surely, we will not cower to the extra-territorial power of the government
of the United States, whose very extreme position on a friendly neighbour of ours is unacceptable to the very United Nations.
If after 50 years America cannot find it in its heart to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade against the Cuban people, it could at the very least have the decency to allow others who will accommodate Cuba democratically to do so in peace –– and civilizably.
Ambassador Hernandez has reminded us that America’s corporate instructions are in breach of the Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations Of 1961 that stipulates foreign diplomats should be allowed to carry out their duties without fear or persecution from host countries. And America gets away with it.
Chances are the United States general no-business ban will affect Cuban doctors, nurses and teachers currently giving of their services in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and, yes, Barbados!
The Canadian-based Scotiabank branches in Jamaica and in Barbados in the last two years suspended and prohibited the provision of financial services
to members of the diplomatic staff of the two embassies –– and even to Cuban nationals with legal residency, we are told.
To what good is this transgression of the sovereignty of other states?
The Cuban Embassy insists it will not abandon its cooperation with other countries, especially in the Caribbean, with which it shares “a proud common history”
Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders.
–– Camille Paglia