Unwelcome meddling by the United States
That the Hilton Trinidad, owned by the State, was effectively prohibited by dictate under US law from holding a conference to be attended by Cuban President Raul Castro feels like a slap in the face of Trinidad and Tobago and a contemptuous overriding of national sovereignty. That feeling is justified.
Not enough is yet known to be able to judge whether the Trinidad and Tobago Government resisted as stoutly as it should any such interference in its internal affairs, or whether insistence on having the conference at the Hilton could have led to criminal or civil-law US retaliation against the US-based management of the hotel.
The fourth Caricom-Cuba Summit—which is also being attended by 15 Caricom heads of state—is a mark of the long relationship between the regional grouping and its friend and neighbour. Today, December 8, is commemorated as Caricom-Cuba Day, and a summit meeting is held triennially on that date.
Next October will see the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Havana Declaration, under which Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica established diplomatic relations with Cuba.
That country's former President, Fidel Castro, was awarded the region's highest honour, the Order of the Caribbean Community, in 2008.
Now progress towards normal relations between the countries of the Americas seems to have taken a step backwards.
WWhen Dr Fidel Castro visited this country in 1995 to attend a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States, that meeting took place at the Hilton Trinidad. On this occasion, however, the US Government has refused to grant the Hilton Worldwide chain a licence to allow the summit to take place at that same venue.
Fortunately, the organisers were able to secure an alternative location at short notice, thus averting some measure of the embarrassment caused by the US thus thrusting itself into regional affairs and into Trinidad and Tobago's territory.
The episode is a reminder of the pernicious and outdated US legislative posture of imposing a blockade and sanctions on Cuba.
At the 2008 Caricom/Cuba Summit, held in Cuba, 14 Caribbean heads of state called on US President Barack Obama to lift the decades-old trade embargo.
When he attended the fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain in 2009, regional and Latin American leaders again stated to Mr Obama, this time in person, their growing impatience with this intransigent anti-Cuba stance.
The Obama administration has inched in the direction of lifting the blockade, but now the reality of its implications for a third-party state has been brought painfully home to Trinidad and Tobago.
This country should now miss no opportunity to add its voice to the international clamour denouncing such indefensible US policy.