U.S. firm begins managing hotel owned by Cuban military

HAVANA - American hotel giant Starwood (HOT) has begun managing a hotel owned by the Cuban military, opening one of the biggest holes yet in the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente in Dec. 2014.

Starwood officials say a contract between the Stamford, Connecticut-based hotel giant and Gaviota, the Cuban Defense Ministry's rapidly expanding tourism wing, went into effect Tuesday. The 180-room Quinta Avenida hotel in Havana's upscale Miramar neighborhood has been emblazoned with the logo of Starwood's Four Points by Sheraton business travel brand and travelers can book rooms through Starwood's website.

The hotel is being gradually refurbished and equipped with new beds, linens and other amenities. The 180-member Cuban staff will be supervised by about five Starwood managers from other countries.