Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Novel Is Done! Now What?

I am happy to report that The Death of the White Rose is now a completed work and is, for the time being, out of my hands and on its way along the hurdle-strewn way toward publication. I’ll be posting about its progress as it finds its way toward seeing the light of day. I’m taking a deep breath before plunging into the next project.

Cuba and the US continue to be like two cats in a bag, continually clawing at each other and benefiting nobody. The latest evidence of this is a decision of the US Treasury Department not to grant a special license to Hilton Worldwide to allow its hotel in Trinidad-Tobago to host the triennial conference of CARICOM because Raúl Castro is planning to host the conference. CARICOM is an international organization of Caribbean nations that meets every three years to facilitate improved relationships between regional countries. It includes Cuba, Trinidad-Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and ten other countries. Presidents of all its members will be attending the conference.

US regulation enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the US Department of the Treasury prohibit US citizens and business from engaging in commercial transactions with Cuba that would benefit the government. These regulations require a US business to ask for permission to enter into a transaction with Cuba. Ali Khan, general manager of the Hilton in Trinidad issued a statement reporting that Hilton was informed that a license would not be granted.

The conference will take place at a conference center owned by the government of Trinidad-Tobago. Raul Castro will be in attendance with his entourage together with the heads of state of all fifteen CARICOM countries. It appears to me that the net effect of these regulations is zero as far as Cuba is concerned and a multi-million dollar loss for a US based business. At a time when the US desperately needs foreign trade dollars it is difficult to imagine our government doing a better job of shooting itself in the foot.

I was struck by a comment that I read to a news account that appeared in The Trinidad Express Newspapers: “We live in a greedy capitalist country [Trinidad-Tobago] where there is no consideration to equality and communal living virtues upheld by the Cuban and South American revolution. Trinidad and Tobago is disgraceful in comparison. Good relations with America is desirable but friends don't exploit and bully their friends. Time to explore stronger relations with Cuba, Venezuela and others.” In three sentences, the commentator illustrates how the US regulations have the opposite effect than what is their intended object. The US government is driving other countries into Cuba’s orbit by such heavy handed policies, aided by the benefits underwritten by Venezuela’s oil-based financing (supported in great part by US purchases of its oil).

The Hilton hotel in Trinidad is a wonderful showcase of US business accomplishment. I stayed there many years ago and still remember the breathtaking view of the bay from the lobby, which is at the top of a cliff. Guests take elevators from the lobby down to their rooms all of which hang over the ocean and are built into a cliff with unobstructed views. It’s a shame the CARICOM leaders and their staffs will not be enjoying its hospitality.

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