Cuba protests PriceSmart's suspension of memberships in Jamaica
By Aileen Torres-Bennett
KINGSTON, April 11 (Reuters) - Cuba is protesting the decision by PriceSmart Inc, a major U.S.-based bulk-shopping warehouse, to suspend memberships of shoppers from the communist country at its Jamaica subsidiary, Cuban officials said on Friday.
PriceSmart took the action this week, citing the decades-old U.S. embargo on Cuba that prohibits economic relations between the two countries, Cuban officials say.
PriceSmart did not respond to a request for comment, and has declined to tell the Jamaican media why it suspended the memberships at this time.
Jamaica is increasingly popular with Cuban shoppers, and Havana lifted restrictions on travel last year, allowing wealthier Cubans to leave the country on shopping trips abroad.
One diplomatic source familiar with Cuba said PriceSmart may have suspected large-scale purchases were being made on behalf of Cuban government contractors, a potential embargo violation.
PriceSmart, based in San Diego, California, is the largest operator of membership warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean, with 32 stores serving more than 1 million cardholders in those regions and South America.
The company told Jamaican media it will only reinstate memberships for Cuban embassy staff and citizens who can provide proof of permanent residency in Jamaica.
"It's a U.S. company, and their subsidiaries cannot sell to Cuba," said Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. Continuación...