Hilton-Owned Hotel in Norway Refuses to Host Cuban Delegation, Sparks Protests

An Oslo hotel owned by the U.S.-based Hilton Hotel Corp. (HLT) faced protests, a boycott and a police complaint this week after refusing to book rooms for a Cuban delegation because of the United States' trade embargo against Cuba.

The Cuban delegation, set to attend a travel fair in Oslo this month, planned to stay at the Scandic Edderkoppen Hotel in the city center, as they had on five previous visits.

However, the 140-hotel Scandic company was bought by Hilton in March, and the Cubans were informed in December that they would have to find another hotel due to the American boycott.

On Friday, the 300,000-member Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees announced that it was boycotting all Scandic hotels in Norway, joining a wave of protests that started when the ban on Cuban guest became news on Thursday.

"We are already looking for other hotels for planned conferences," said the union's deputy leader Anne Grethe Skaardal. "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 Anti-Racist Center in Oslo filed a police complaint against the hotels, saying Norwegian law ensures that "no one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin."

Christina Karlegran, regional spokeswoman for Hilton and Scandic, said Hilton is an American company and is bound by the Cuba embargo.

"We have to follow American law," she said by telephone from Stockholm, Sweden. "We can't see that we have broken any Swedish or Norwegian law. ... If it turns out to be illegal, we will address that."

The Foreign Ministry said companies operating in Norway have to obey Norwegian law, regardless of their home base. It said other agencies would have to determine what laws apply in this case.

In a news release, Norway's most powerful labor union, the 830,000 member Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, demanded that "the government take steps so that companies like Scandic, which clearly abide by the United States' illegal boycott and blockade and not Norwegian law, are barred from doing business in Norway."

The state Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud said it would demand an explanation from Scandic and then decide whether to open a case against the company.

In a similar case in Mexico, the government in March ordered the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City to pay a $112,000 fine for expelling 16 Cuban quests a month earlier due to the boycott.

The trade embargo against Cuba began in 1963, and largely prohibits U.S. citizens and U.S. companies from doing business with the island nation.