- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MEXICO CITY — City officials were attempting yesterday to shut down a U.S.-owned hotel in Mexico City that drew condemnation from the government after its manager kicked out a Cuban delegation under pressure from Washington.

Officials from the city borough where the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel and Towers is located posted signs across its front entrance saying, “Due to infringement of local law, the Sheraton Hotel activities have been suspended. We are sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused. Thank you for your understanding.”

Borough head Virginia Jaramillo Flores said hotel staffers were notified that the facility was being closed because of building-code violations.

It was not clear whether hotel officials were following the orders and asking guests and employees to leave.

A spokeswoman for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which owns the hotel, said she had no information about the apparent closure.

Borough officials closed the front entrance, as authorities notified hotel staff. Guests were seen using a side door.

Local officials had said they were investigating the hotel — located near the U.S. Embassy — for violations of ordinances after its manager expelled 16 Cuban officials, who were attending a Feb. 2 meeting with American energy executives to discuss possible investment opportunities in the oil industry.

Officials at the U.S. Treasury Department later said that if the hotel had not expelled the Cubans, it would have been in violation of an embargo against the communist island.

The act outraged Mexicans, who saw it as an attempt to enforce a foreign law on Mexican soil.

The decision also prompted Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez and Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo to file complaints, saying the hotel had violated Mexico trade-protection laws.

But Mexican federal officials stopped short of calling for the closure of the hotel and criticized officials for attempting close it.

Miss Flores said it was her responsibility to sanction hotels that violate building codes. She said that she has closed 37 other hotels in the city and that inspectors became aware of the Sheraton’s irregularities because of the controversy over the Cubans.

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