Every summer the rise of temperatures rings in Cocktail season, and I stock up on suitable quality spirits for my bar. I have a preferred online vendor, which has a good selection and good prices, for some of my spirits.
♦ An unexpected obstacle
Alas, this year I experienced an unexpected obstacle: My Germany based vendor's Pay Pal didn't work, because of a bug, and when I asked what was up. I was told, in several calls, a story that I initially got totally wrong. What had happened was this:
In 2011 or so my vendor, and many other German online traders, received an E-Mail, in English, that demanded they drop all their Cuban products, or else lose their PayPal services. It was outright blackmail. Those who didn't, had their Payl Pal accounts frozen. What triggered this was apparently US government pressure on Pay Pal to enforce Helms Burton in Germany, on Germans.
As it went, my vendor then obtained an injunction and Pay Pal settled out of court, agreeing that Pay Pal lifts the freeze of the vendor's account while the vendor sells products from Cuba by other ways (bypassing US entities).
Normally, about US sanctions on Cuba I couldn't care less about. If you fools choose to deprive yourself of quality Cuban rum and cigars, just because you can't get over the Bay of Pigs, or the continued existence of Communism in your neighbourhood - it's your loss, not mine, and if you insist on silly ideas like having Helms-Burton, your hassle, not mine. Or so I thought, and with some reason.
♦ Helms-Burton's extraterritorial effect, and illegality
Because with Helms-Burton, the US have enacted a law that they assert applies to foreign companies and citizens in third countries. That is a conceit, an intolerable act. The sovereignty of the individual European states means that a sanction-happy US Congress cannot impose law on European companies or citizens.
Alas, by merit of sheer US economic weight, Helms-Burton and comparable laws have been creeping into international trade relations. My vendor's troubles are a trivial example, but illustrate well the overreach.
On the matter the European parliament resolved:
"The European Parliament,
- having regard to its previous resolutions on extraterritorial policy and its effect on trade and competition in the world market ... the Helms-Burton Act contains a number of provisions which are intended to extend US law unilaterally to companies from third countries (extra-territorial effect)
Calls on ... the Congress of the United States to refrain from attempts to impose legal order on third countries by extraterritorial policy with damaging effects to the world trade order, including European companies"
The European comission's position is that the Helms-Burton Act is contrary to international law. The EU never acknowledged the legitimacy of the Act and fully reserves its right to resume the WTO case against the Helms-Burton Act.
The impending normalisation of US relations with Cuba may pervent that, but since there are other, similar US laws on the book that share its claim to extraterritorial effect ...
♦ What do we have here?
Immediately, this results in the absurd situation that the US in effect sanctioned a shop in Germany for using Pay Pal Germany to sell Rum from Cuba. Ironically, when they shut down that, the shop couldn't sell Bourbon either, which incidentally was what I was after.
And that's how US sanctions on Cuba interfere with my drinking. Just who do you think you are?!
Correction: I was misinformed and have subsequently learned that I got the initial story about what happened to the shop utterly wrong. I corrected it to reflect what actually happened and marked the passage yellow. My apologies. I should have checked first.