US law bans Cubans from Swedish hotels

Swedish hotels are turning away official delegations from Cuba because of American laws.

Hotel chains Scandic and Sheraton have said that the controversial Helms-Burton Act prevents them as American companies from playing host to delegations from Havana.

The Scandic chain came under American ownership in March when its parent company Hilton Group was bought by Hilton Hotels Corporation.

The issue came to light in Norway before Christmas, when a Cuban business delegation was turned away from a Scandic hotel in Oslo, a hotel in which they had stayed several times before.

Geir Lundkvist, managing director of Hilton and Scandic in Norway, said he was sorry about the situation.

“They have been given a new hotel outside the Scandic chain, which I hope they are satisfied with. I do not want to comment further on the situation,” he told newspaper VG.

Cuban delegations will get the same treatment at Scandic hotels in Sweden, a spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday.

“It is of course not nice to turn away guests, but given that this was a question of a Cuban delegation we who are part of an American hotels chain have to follow American laws,” said Christina Karlegran, spokeswoman for Hilton in and Scandic in the Nordic region.

Karlegran said that Scandic interpreted the Helms-Burton Act as only forcing them to turn away official Swedish delegations, not private individuals.

“We do not turn away [ordinary] Cubans, although this question has never come up. This was an official trade delegation.”

Controversy was generated last year when a Cuban delegation was turned away from a Sheraton hotel in Mexico after pressure from the US government. Politicians and media protested that the United States was forcing its laws on other countries.

The United States previously claimed that the law also applied to non-American companies, something which caused the European Union to take the question to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The most controversial elements of Helms-Burton have never been brought into force.

Sweden and Cuba have full diplomatic and trading relations.