[Marxism] Granma editorial: "A veritably lamentable event"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Feb 10 19:20:11 MST 2006

(This is a detailed explanation of the politics behind the Mexican
hotel's decision to kick out the Cuban oil industry executives at
Washington's bidding. There are some people living in what are at
times referred to as the "advanced capitalist countries" who don't
understand why the national rights of the less powerful countries
are so important, both for the residents of the weaker countries 
and at the same time, why they need to be understood by those who
hail from wealther nations. This editoria, I think, helps make it
clearer, in my view. Translation received from Cuban AIN agency.)

February 10, 2006

A veritably lamentable event

WHAT has taken place in Mexico on account of orders from Washington
to a hotel located in Mexico City provokes various sentiments, which
range from indignation to pity.

The facts are well known: a group of Cuban officials linked to the
energy sector were meeting in Mexico with their U.S. colleagues for a
professional and serious discussion – among other subjects – on the
possibilities of cooperation in the oil prospecting sphere, something
that has been happening for some years with diverse productive
sectors of the United States interested in future exchanges with our

This meeting had been agreed to by virtue of the express interest of the
U.S. side to learn of the potential of Cuba’s exclusive zone in the
Gulf of Mexico, and the disposition of the Cuban government not to
exclude the participation of U.S. companies in future negotiations on
the theme. The meeting itself is yet further proof of the climate of
mutual respect prevailing between our country and U.S. economic
sectors, also evidenced in significant and increasing food purchases
already standing at $500 million per year, which Cuba has paid for in
cash and promptly, something which the current administration of the
United States wishes to prevent at all costs at this time.

This event, as on other occasions, was taking place in Mexico, in a
Mexican hotel, given that, by virtue of the blockade, both sides,
Cuban and American, are prohibited by the Bush government from
traveling to each other’s country.

It is well-known that the nationality of a subsidiary company, as in
the case of the María Isabel Sheraton Hotel, is that of the country
in which it is located, and independent of the nationality of the
parent company. In other words, an entity registered in Mexico, under
the shelter of Mexican legislation, it is in all legal effects a
Mexican entity and should be ruled by the laws of Mexico and not
those of the country who owns its assets or of its transnational
owners. In addition to being legally unobjectionable, this has a
profound practical content; above all in the present context of a
globalized world, where innumerable foreign shareholders can possess
companies in any country.

Taking the example of Mexico itself, a country that receives a large
amount of direct foreign investment, it is fitting to ask what would
happen if every country began to apply its own laws to subsidiaries
operating in Mexico. It is obvious that in those conditions German
laws would be applied on some companies, French on others, Japanese
on others, or perhaps all of them. One does not need to make much of
an imaginative effort to deduce that this would lead to absolute
chaos in the receptor country, in this case Mexico, as it would have
to apply the laws of 10, 20 or more countries with distinct juridical
regimes and corporative cultures.

All this is clearly established so that it can be understood with
absolute clarity and nobody would violate it, except the government
of Bush who, as master of the world has demonstrated that he does not
recognize any limit to his arrogant power.

The facts confirm it: last Friday when the first day of both
delegations’ working sessions had ended, the Cuban party was informed
by the Mexican hotel administration that the U.S. State Department
had instructed it to evict them from the premises.

One supposes that the hotel manager thought that what had happened
was very logical and reasonable. He didn’t even blink, and
immediately fulfilled the order he was given. He didn’t stop to think
for a second whether a foreign government had the legal capacity to
give that order, or that any problem that might arise in this respect
would have to be resolved under the precepts of Mexican law.

The hotel manager cannot be blamed. He simply acted with the logic of
someone who feels that he is not doing anything abnormal. That such
an order was shameless and abusive in the eyes of the Mexican people
and the world, would never have passed through his mind.

Perhaps he even thought that evicting the Cuban officials from the
hotel might please the government that vehemently condemns Cuba every
year in the Geneva, and is unexpectedly silent in the face of the
horrendous torture that the United States is daily committing against
defenseless prisoners under its custody in Cuban territory illegally
and forcefully occupied by the government that accuses it of
violating human rights.

To make the act even more humiliating, the empire didn’t even bother
to inform the Mexican authorities, and the order was transmitted by a
duty bureaucrat in the Treasury Department. Without any doubt, a
country’s sovereignty is immaterial and was not worth disturbing a
higher official for.

Brookly McLaughlin, the Treasury Department spokesperson could not
have been more explicit in that respect. In a report published in The
New York Times on February 7 she was quoted as having said that the
Mexico City hotel is a U.S. subsidiary and thus is prohibited from
offering services to Cuba or Cuban nationals. In this case we are
simply following our usual procedures, by applying the law. She
failed to explain – probably not thinking it necessary – that she was
referring to the law of the United States.

According to a cable published in the Estrella Digital on February 9,
another spokesperson in the State Department, Sean McCormack, stated
that U.S. law is basically applied to U.S. companies or subsidiaries
of U.S. groups wherever they might happen to be. It would be hard to
find a clearer example of scorn for other countries’ sovereignty.

The indignation of the Mexican people and within many of its
institutions was not long in coming. Demonstrations were organized 
to protest at the gross offense. Senators from the main political
parties reacted with honor and decorum. The Tuesday, February 7
edition of La Jornada newspaper published an article offering
information on the issue titled: “The extraterritorial application of
U.S. law is inadmissible, Senators.”

The article began by saying: Senators from the PAN, PRI and PERRON
parties yesterday demanded the government of Vicente Fox to make an
energetic diplomatic reaction to the expulsion of Cuban officials
from the María Isabel Sheraton Hotel, on account of this act
constituting a violation of Articles 1, 14 and 16 of the
Constitution, in addition to what they described as the “shame” of
allowing the application of extraterritorial laws in Mexico. That is
inadmissible and requires immediate clarification, they stressed. But
in the midst of all this climate of unanimous condemnation of the
ruling received from the North by the homeland of Juárez, what did
the Mexican government say and do?

If one analyzes the statement made by Foreign Minister Derbez, whom
the international press has approached to know the Mexican government
position on such a flagrant scandal, one would have to feel a strange
mixture of perplexity and almost pity.

In his first statement from Europe, where he was touring various
countries, he acknowledged, according to an AFP cable on February 7,
that the law could not in any way be applied extraterritorially, but
hastened to add: “What we should do, not with the government of the
United States because they have their own legislation, is to apply
the corresponding sanction.”

Translated into direct and clear language what he is admitting with
the most incredible indolence is that the U.S. Treasury Department
can give orders to enterprises constituted and operating in Mexico;
and given the case that the theme has come out in public and there
was no other remedy than to take some kind of action to calm people,
he blamed the enterprise that obeyed the order against the honor and
dignity of Mexico.

According to the same cable in New York, Ellen Gallo, a spokesperson
for the hotel chain, contradicted Mr. Derbez’ point of view by
correctly affirming that it was an issue between two governments.

Another headline from Mexico’s La Jornada on February 8 published
another unheard-of phrase from the Mexican foreign secretary: “The
Sheraton will be sanctioned without any complaint being sent to
Washington,” and the newspaper added: “Luis Derbez Bautista, who is
in London on the last leg of his two-week tour of Europe, said that
the decision of the María Isabel Sheraton Hotel to evict a delegation
of Cuban officials from its premises did not represent a violation of
national sovereignty.”

In the midst of growing internal indignation, the Mexican government
was obliged to adopt a more energetic stand at such an affront to a
nation educated in the example of the child heroes of Chapultepec and
that of all those who have fought to preserve the highest values of
the glorious Mexican people.

Foreign Secretary Derbez was evidently insecure and indecisive. 
The Mexican El Universal confirmed his tribulations in an article
datelined February 8, titled “Foreign Relations Secretary adjusts his
position toward the United States on account of Cuban evictions.” The
same newspaper noted: “The Mexican government is discussing sending a
diplomatic note of protest to the United States for the expulsion of
a Cuban delegation from the María Isabel Sheraton Hotel, stated Luis
Ernest Derbez, who warned that the federal government would not allow
any foreign law to have application over national ones.

“In a radio interview, the foreign secretary said that via Jerónimo
Gutiérrez, under-secretary for North America, the Mexican government
has contacted the U.S. government to investigate the incident
concretely and precisely. “He (the under-secretary) will bring us the
information so we can decide whether or not to bring a complaint
against the U.S. government.

“However, in less than four hours, Derbez changed his position,
because in a press conference in London before the radio interview he
had assured that the incident did not merit sending a diplomatic note
to Washington, as it was the María Isabel Sheraton Hotel that
proceeded in undue manner, given that the Treasury Department only
gave indications.

“Moreover, he assured that the United States did not violate Mexican
sovereignty by asking the enterprise to apply a US law.”

A more recent headline, La Jornada on February 9, offered new and
even stranger statements: “Verbal petition to the United States to
review the extraterritorial application of laws: Derbez.”

It is curious to confirm that even a timid “verbal petition” that the
United States should review the application of its laws in Mexico was
accompanied by an explanation that made it clear that the only guilty
party for everything that took place was the hotel, and to
demonstrate special pleasure with the Bush government by confirming
that “relations with the United States are very positive in general
terms.” Further on, Foreign Secretary Derbez blamed the press for
“making a scandal out of this matter.” And he added, as if to ensure
that there was no doubt of the extreme delicacy with which he made
his “verbal petition” to Washington: “we have let the State
Department know in a verbal manner that it would seem to us that they
should review this territoriality (of their laws).”

Really, if anything was missing in these statements, it should have
been to apologize for the terrible trouble caused to the State
Department to have to devote a few minutes of its extremely busy time
to listen to someone to whom “it would seem” that the non-application
of U.S. laws in his own country “should” be reviewed.

Subsequently, there was talk of closing down the hotel, but it should
be clarified that the reasons adduced to threaten taking this measure
are of a merely administrative nature, as if, for example, the hotel
occupied 3,000 square meters of terrain without authorization, or was
operating two bars without a license or not have an emergency exit

As can be appreciated none of these reasons have the remotest
connection with the essential problem: the fact that the
spokespersons of the expansionist state who yesterday seized more
than half of its territory from Mexico, are stating that Mexican
enterprises with the participation of U.S. entities have to comply
with U.S. laws in Mexico and have acted in a draconian manner in line
with this self-assigned prerogative.

Evaluations of this event could be very varied, but as Martí said:
“There are a series of essential truths that fit on the wing of a
hummingbird and are, nevertheless, the key to public peace, spiritual
elevation and the grandeur of the homeland.”

>From our Martí point of view, we feel tremendous sadness for
everything that has happened, which expresses up to what point the
United States has afforded itself the right to ignore the Mexican
government and people and to act in an impugn manner with total
disrespect for the grandeur of that beautiful nation of close

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