Friday, February 10, 2006 Posted: 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Communist Cuba on Friday criticized the United States for its "arrogant imperial power" in pressuring a U.S.-owned hotel in Mexico last week to expel Cuban officials meeting with American oil executives.
"We feel terribly bad for all that has happened, which has shown just how far the United States will go to assume the right to ignore the Mexican government and people," said an official note taking up most of the front page of the Communist Party daily Granma.
It said that in pressuring the management of the Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton in Mexico City to refuse service to the Cubans meeting there, the U.S. government "acted with impunity in absolute disrespect for the greatness of this wonderful brother nation."
The United States, which has maintained a trade and financial embargo against Cuba for 45 years, has no diplomatic relations with the island nation. U.S. sanctions were strengthened in 1996 with the Helms-Burton law, which sought to pressure other nations not to do business with Cuba.
Mexico officials at the time criticized aspects of the U.S. law it considered to be "extraterritorial" and passed a law forbidding Mexican firms to go along with the stepped-up American sanctions.
Following the recent flap, Mexico issued a complaint Tuesday against the hotel for expelling the Cuban delegation, saying the move violated investment and trade protection laws. The hotel could face fines of nearly $500,000, officials said.
The meeting organized by a U.S.-Cuba trade organization to allow American energy executives to discuss future investment opportunities on the island with Cuban officials was moved to a Mexican-owned hotel.
"The Bush government, as if it were an owner of the world, has demonstrated it knows no limit in its arrogant imperial power," the Cuban editorial said.
The Cuban article also criticized as timid Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Derbez's response to the U.S. action, which consisted of a verbal petition asking the United States to review the application of its laws in Mexico.
Derbez this week rejected a call by the lower house of Mexico's Congress urging a diplomatic note be sent to the United States to protest Washington's pressuring of the hotel, saying the matter could be resolved domestically.
"If there was anything missing in [Derbez's] declarations, it was to humbly seek pardon for the terrible trouble it would mean for the [U.S.] Department of State to dedicate a few minutes of its very busy time" to listen to his request to review the application of U.S. law in Mexico, Granma said.