Government must take a stand, and Barbadians must boycott buying from PriceSmart over its decision to stop doing business with the Cuban Embassy here, says outspoken attorney-at-law David Comissiong. And the activist has called also on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments to join forces with Cuba over the issue.
Condemning the action, which is based on the United States’ 52-year-old embargo on Cuba, Comissiong insisted that Barbadians must send “a strong message to both PriceSmart and the American government that it is wrong”.
“The best way we can send that message is by boycotting PriceSmart; by refusing to give our business to PriceSmart. I think this will be a most effective way of sending a message, because the only thing that American corporations and the American government seem to pay attention to is when their profit line is affected,” he said today.
“Withdraw your commercial patronage from PriceSmart and PriceSmart will, in turn, send a message to the American government that these kinds of oppressive policies are hurting their business interests.”
PriceSmart’s decision came to light during a Barbados TODAY interview with Cuban Ambassador to Barbados Lissette Perez, who reported that the embassy was informed by club manager of PriceSmart Barbados Inc., Terry Mahon, that, as a subsidiary of a United States company, PriceSmart could not transact business with citizens of Cuba who did not have permanent residency here “or possibly [in] another country”.
The restrictions are based on the embargo on Cuba, which consists of economic sanctions against the communist country and restrictions on Cuban travel and commerce for all people and companies under United States jurisdiction. But citing the lyrics of a popular calypso to bear out his argument that the islands of the Caribbean are members of one family, Comissiong said: “If you touch my brother, tell them, tell them, they will answer to all of we.
“We permitted this American company to set up in Barbados and to make profits from doing business here. We expect it to respect us, to respect the laws and policies of our nation. It is wrong for them to feel that they can come to Barbados and exhibit this kind of oppressive treatment to our Cuban brothers and sisters,” he added.
Parliamentarian Trevor Prescod has also added his voice to calls for PriceSmart to be blacklisted by Barbadians, describing the company’s actions as disrespectful and “a major breach of international law”. The MP for St Michael East argued that while PriceSmart is an American company, it is operating in Barbados, and it is “gross disrespect for the USA to dictate to its corporate entities not to have commercial relations with other member states of the Caribbean with whom Barbados has friendly and family relations”.
“Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should be engaging the United States government in the exercise because it would show Barbadians that the country should not be valued based on its size, but on the legitimacy as a sovereign state,” Prescod added.
Meanwhile, veteran political activist Robert “Bobby” Clarke identified the contradiction in American trading practices since it trades with such communist countries as China and Vietnam, but yet not with Cuba.