A delegation from Cuba’s Tourism Ministry planning to be in Norway for the annual Lillestroem Tourism Fair on Jan. 11-13 learned in December that its 14 members weren’t welcome at the Edderkoppen Hotel in Olso where previous Cuban delegations had stayed.

Geir Lundkvist, spokesperson for the Scandic chain that owns that hotel and 139 others in nine countries, explained that U.S. rules have been in force since March 2006 when U.S.-based Hilton corporation bought Scandic. The U.S. economic blockade of Cuba took precedence, he said.

Christina Karlegran, regional spokesperson for Hilton and Scandic, assured reporters that Cuban groups are turned away from Scandic hotels in Sweden too. “We have to follow American law,” she said.

In response, the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees is boycotting Scandic hotels. Union leader Anne Grethe Skaardal declared, “For us, it is unacceptable for the U.S. to dictate to the whole world. In addition, we strongly oppose the U.S. boycott of Cuba.”

The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions demanded that “companies like Scandic” be barred from Norway. Citing Norwegian law, Oslo’s Anti-Racist Center filed a police complaint against the hotel, Scandic, and a Hilton Hotel managing director. The center said, “No one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin … foreign companies establishing themselves in Norway must follow Norwegian laws.” Norway’s foreign minister agreed, although he expressed uncertainty as to the government agency responsible for following up on the situation.

In March 2006 Mexico’s government fined the Sheraton company $112,000 for refusing service to 16 Cuban guests. Sheraton hotels in Sweden reportedly are continuing to bar Cuban visitors.

atwhit@megalink.net

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