Recently released U.S diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks reveal the success of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and British trade union campaign against the Hilton Group’s ban on Cuban nationals staying in their hotels in 2007.
Leaked cables report on the U.S hotel chain’s response to a boycott of its hotels by the GMB and Unison trade unions. In correspondence to Hilton Hotels International, the GMB made is quite clear that:
…discriminating on legal grounds, which includes nationalities, in the provision of goods, facilities or services is unlawful under the 1976 Race Relations Act
Both the GMB and Unison made it apparent that they could not do business with “any company which pursued racist policies”.
Following intense pressure from CSC and the two unions Hilton International concluded:
that their critics’ legal argument was valid. Hilton International has instructed its staff to obey all local law, including the Race Relations Act, even if doing so violates US Cuba sanctions… Hilton has asked the US hotel industry trade association to begin a dialogue with the US government on this issue on behalf of all US hotels operating abroad
Although referring only to the hospitality industry, the hotel giants stressed that “Hilton would like to see a reform of the US Sanctions”.
A subsequent cable reports on a meeting between the Hilton, CSC and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba which reveals that the highly effective boycott of Hilton in 2007 led to concerns regarding the conflict between US sanctions on Cuba and UK law banning discrimination. Members of the Parliamentary Group vowed to “protest the US sanctions with the relevant minister”.
The cables demonstrate the effective lobbying carried out by CSC and the British trade union movement and illustrate the potential for the British government to overrule U.S law. The extraterritorial implementation of the U.S blockade represents not just an affront to Cuban sovereignty, but also that of the British government.
According to comments by the U.S Embassy in London in the same cable, “we have briefed Members of Parliament and the Trade Union Congress that the US does not impose its sanctions obligations extraterritorially on non-US persons”. However, as the experience of Barclays and Lloyds testify, British companies continue to be subjugated to American blockade legislation.