Large cranes can be seen at Port Mariel inside the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone.
A generic-sounding company headquartered in the tax
haven of Liechtenstein has for the past 37 years served as the center of global
shipping operations for the Cuban government, functioning under the radar while
skirting a six-decade trade embargo, an investigation by the Miami Herald/el
Nuevo Herald and McClatchy shows.
When incorporated in 1984 in the principality of
Liechtenstein, Acemex Management Company Limited was created as a means of
survival. It grew into a business model, has been described as the work of a
genius and has proved enduring.
A new Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald investigation
reveals the network of hidden shell companies and secretive jurisdictions that
allowed Fidel and Raúl Castro and now their military successors to borrow money
and to buy, sell and charter the ships that bring in chemicals, fuel and
construction supplies needed to build the growing tourism sector and export
The new investigation sheds light on little-known Acemex and the key players surrounding it — a pair of powerful Cuban brothers not named Fidel and Raúl, but Guillermo Faustino Rodriguez López-Calleja and hisyounger sibling Luis Alberto. The latter is a brigadier generalblacklisted by the United States in 2020.
Las relaciones entre Cuba y
Estados Unidos han estado determinadas por el embargo a la isla que el gobierno
de Washington estableció tras el triunfo de la revolución en 1959. Esa política
no ha cambiado, aunque ha sufrido endurecimientos y también flexibilizaciones.
Al llegar Barack Obama a la Casa Blanca inició una fase de normalización,
coincidiendo con el avance de las reformas aperturistas en la Gran Antilla,
iniciadas en la década de 1990, pero hasta hace poco discontinuas. Sin embargo,
para ello empleó los recursos de relajación de las medidas que ofrecen las
propias leyes del embargo. Es decir, sin modificarlo, lo que ha permitido a su
sucesor, Donald Trump, restablecerlas en su versión más dura. Este libro
estudia el problema de los vínculos entre los dos países desde comienzos del
siglo XX desde la perspectiva de lo económico, que fue razón esencial de los
mismos, y muestra cómo la falta de un sentido de estado y de conformidad con la
influencia tuvo en la constitución de otro –Estados Unidos ocupó Cuba entre
1898 y 1902, tras su guerra de independencia– implicó dejarlas al juego de
intereses particulares que rige el funcionamiento del sistema político
norteamericano y que tal defecto los ha dotado de un asimetría que ha
prevalecido a los cambios de coyuntura y circunstancias desde entonces, al
triunfo de la revolución, al fin de la Guerra Fría.
Capítulo I. 90 millas. Relaciones
económicas Cuba-Estados Unidos en perspectiva histórica. Antonio Santamaría
García; José Manuel Azcona Pastor
Capítulo II. Avance y retroceso
de los capitales norteamericanos en la industria cubana del azúcar, 1890-1959.
Alejandro García Álvarez
Capítulo III. Proteccionismo y
restricción de la oferta: los orígenes de los controles de producción de azúcar
en Cuba y la relación comercial con Estados Unidos, 1921-193. Alan D. Dye
Capítulo IV. Ajustes al modelo de
dominación: la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba tras la revolución de
1933. Oscar Zanetti Lecuona
Capítulo V. “Cuba sería un cementerio de deudores”. El problema de la moratoria en la década de 1930. Julio César Guanche
Capítulo VI. El nacionalismo
moderado cubano, 1920-1960. Políticas económicas y relaciones con Estados
Unidos. Jorge I. Domínguez
Capítulo VII. Relaciones
comerciales azucareras Cuba-Estados Unidos, 1902-1960. Jorge Pérez-López
Capítulo VIII. Las relaciones
Cuba-Estados Unidos desde la revolución hasta el periodo especial.Victor
Capítulo IX. Failed on all
counts. El embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Andrew Zimbalist
Capítulo X. La ventana de oportunidad que se abrió y se cerró: historia
de la normalización de relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba. Carmelo Mesa-Lago
Capítulo XI. El bloqueo económico en el contexto de las agresiones de
Estados Unidos contra Cuba. Historia no contada y evolución reciente.José Luis
Capítulo XIII. Cuba-Estados Unidos: la gestión de las empresas cubanas.
Ileana Díaz Fernández
Capítulo XIV. Viajes, remesas y trabajo por cuenta propia. Relaciones
económicas entre los cubanos emigrados y su país de origen.Jorge Duany
Capítulo XV. El papel de los visitantes de Estados Unidos en la economía cubana. Historia y realidad. Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva; José Luis Perelló Cabrera
WASHINGTON- The Washington Office on Latin
America and the Center for Democracy in the Americas
December 17, 2020
Today the Washington Office on Latin America
(WOLA) and the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) are
releasing “The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement,”
a roadmap for how the Biden-Harris administration can implement a policy of
engagement toward Cuba. Six years after President Barack Obama’s December 17,
2014 announcement that he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba, we
continue to emphasize the importance of engagement to advance the interests of
the U.S. and of the Cuban people. Engagement accomplished more in two years
than the policy of hostility achieved in sixty, and is a more effective strategy
to advance the cause of human rights, political liberty, and economic reform.
Engagement will facilitate family ties, cultural exchange, and commercial
relations, expanding the market for U.S. businesses, raising the standard of
living for the Cuban people, and encouraging economic reform on the island. A
new policy of engagement entails relatively little political risk and has the
potential to mobilize a wide variety of constituencies in support. Our report
expands on why Cuba should be a priority, why a variety of bipartisan
stakeholders including the business community, Congress, and Cuban Americans
support policies of engagement. The roadmap lays out a series of sequenced
recommendations in three sections “Repairing the Damage: The First Nine Months,”
“Taking the Initiative: The Second Year,” and “Finishing the Job: A Legislative
Agenda” detailing how the Biden-Harris administration can move quickly to
implement much-needed change in U.S.-Cuba policy.
One lesson from the Obama years is that a policy based exclusively on executive action is notenduring. As we have witnessed, a new administration can quickly dismantle it. If we hope to persuade the Cuban government that a constructive relationship with the United States is possible and will flourish to the extent that Cuba moves toward a more open political and economic system, Cuban authorities must be convinced that U.S. policy is durable. That will require legislative action to remove some of the constraints on engagement that Congress has enacted over the years, first and foremost the embargo. Ending the embargo is Cuba’s highest priority in its relationship with the United States; so long as the embargo remains in place, progress toward a more normal relationship will be limited.
of which party ultimately holds the majority in the U.S. Senate, the
administration should publicly express support for legislation to end the
embargo, and work with the bipartisan Cuba Working Group in the House and champions
for engagement in the Senate to cultivate congressional leadership on
actions that could gain some Republican support are repeal of the Cuba-related
sections in the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000
(TSRA) that limit travel and agricultural sales.
• Repeal the
prohibition on travel to Cuba that is not expressly licensed in the CACR.
• Repeal the
limits on the use of credits for financing U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.
additional measures would facilitate commercial ties:
• Repeal Section 211, a special interest
provision of U.S. law that invalidates certain Cuban trademarks in the United
States and threatens reciprocal protection for U.S. brands.
• Approve an amendment that,
notwithstanding any other provision of law, authorizes the United States to
provide Cuba with foreign assistance for the purpose of developing sustainable energy sources and implementing
its 100 year plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
embargo is a central obstacle to the normalization of relations with Cuba, as
President Obama recognized when he called on Congress to repeal it. For
Congress to repeal the embargo it would have to amend a number of different
statutes in addition to the TSRA.33 The most important:
• Repeal the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992,
or at least the sections that limit the freedom of U.S. subsidiaries in third
countries to do business with Cuba, and that prevent vessels engaged in
commerce with Cuba from entering U.S. ports for 180 days.
• Repeal the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
Solidarity Act of 1996, or at least the sections that inscribe the embargo into
law, prohibit U.S. support for Cuban participation in IFIs, and impose extraterritorial
sanctions on other countries (Titles III and IV).
• Repeal the section of the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961 that authorizes the president to unilaterally impose a
trade embargo on Cuba.
the embargo is no longer mandated by law, the President can lift it simply by
not renewing the emergency authorities under the Trading with The Enemy Act. If
economic sanctions against Cuba are called for in the future, they can be
imposed under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
legal scholars argue that the President has the authority to end the embargo by
executive order. Because the embargo regulations codified by the LIBERTAD Act
include the President’s licensing authority without any limitation, there is a
legal argument that the licensing power extends to ending the embargo
entirely.34 The principal rationale for such a step would be President Clinton’s
contention, in his signing statement, that certain passages of the law,
including codification, constitute unconstitutional infringements on the
President’s authority to conduct foreign policy.35
33 For an effort to compile a complete list of the amendments required, H.R. 403 (Mr. Rangel) 114th Congress 1st
Session, January 16, 2015.
34 Robert L. Muse, “The President Has the Constitutional Power to Unilaterally Terminate the Embargo on Cuba,” Global Americans, October 8, 2020, ttps://theglobalamericans.org/2020/10/the-president-has-the-constitutional-power-to-unilaterally-terminate-the-embargo-on-cuba/. For concurring opinions, see Kevin J. Fandl, “Adios Embargo: The Case for Executive Termination of the U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” 54 Am. Bus. L.J. 293; and Pete Jeydel, “How Much of the Cuba Embargo Could the President Unilaterally Lift?” Steptoe International Compliance Blog, October 21, 2016, https://www.steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com/2016/10/how-much-of-the-cuba-embargo-could-the-president-unilaterally-lift/.35 William J. Clinton, “Statement on Signing the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996,” March 12, 1996. The American Presidency Project, ttps://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222515. For the constitutionality of the LIBRTAD Act, see Joaquin Roy, “Lawyers Meet the Law: Critical U.S Voices of Helms-Burton,” Yearbook of International Law, 6, 39 (1997/1998)
Americans traveling to Cuba will not be able to buy rum or tobacco as souvenirs, nor will they be able to stay in government hotels, according to new restrictions announced by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
“Today as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government,” Trump said in a speech to honor Bay of Pigs veterans at the White House. “We are also further restricting the importation of Cuban alcohol and Cuban tobacco. These actions will ensure U.S. dollars do not fund the Cuban regime.”
The Treasury Department modified the embargo regulations on Cuba to prohibit imports of rum and tobacco, as well as lodging in hotels or properties controlled by the Cuban government, government officials and the Communist Party, or their close relatives.
The list names 433 hotels and properties, including some “casas particulares” (private rentals) that the State Department determined were not independent of the government, said Carrie Filipetti, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, in a call with reporters on Wednesday.
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Among the private rentals included is Casa Vida Luxury Holidays, a property advertised on Airbnb that, according to media reports, is linked to Vilma Rodríguez, granddaughter of Communist Party head and former president Raúl Castro.
The measures will deal a harsh blow to Cuba’s tourism industry because the government owns all the island’s hotels. Many travel companies have operations in the United States and will therefore be affected by the measure. Previously, the administration had banned accommodation in hotels run by military companies, but now the prohibition extends to all state-run properties.
Thousands of Cuban Americans who travel to the island every year usually take their families on vacation at these hotels.
“The prohibition on the use of hotels owned by the government of Cuba will also result in fewer airline flights from the United States to Cuba,” said John Kavulich, the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
Filipetti said the restrictions aim at denying funds to the government, which dominates the hospitality industry as well as tobacco and rum production. She added that the policy intends to benefit owners of private bed and breakfasts.
“The Cuban government profits from properties in the hospitality industry owned or controlled by the Cuban government … all at the expense of the Cuban people, who continue to face repression at the hands of the regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement. “Authorized travelers should instead stay in private accommodations, or casas particulares, owned and operated by legitimately independent entrepreneurs.”
The Treasury Department also eliminated a general authorization policy for the participation or organization of conferences, seminars, exhibitions and sporting events. Citizens, residents and companies subject to U.S. law must apply for a specific authorization or license for these activities.
Organizations in favor of more engagement with Cuba quickly pointed out that further restricting travel to Cuba could also hurt the private sector the administration officials say the U.S. wants to lift up.
“To continue limiting American citizens to travel to Cuba is to continue to put pressure on Cuba’s growing private sector, which is already hurting from the domestic economic crisis, the impact of U.S. policies, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said María José Espinosa, interim president of Engage Cuba.
Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel blasted on Twitter the U.S. “empire” and the new measures “that violate the rights of Cubans and Americans. Its cruel and criminal policy will be defeated by our people, who will never renounce their sovereignty.”
In the last two years, the administration has intensified its “maximum pressure” campaign against the Cuban government, citing human rights violations and its support of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
In June, the Trump administration included Fincimex, a company controlled by the military conglomerate GAESA, on a list of entities linked to the Cuban military. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from direct financial transactions with these entities.
The United States also suspended all charter and commercial flights to Cuba, except for flights to Havana. It also limited per person remittances to $1,000 per quarter. And it has sanctioned companies involved in the shipments of Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
U.S. sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic, and the decline in Venezuela’s oil aid have plunged Cuba’s inefficient socialist economy into a deep crisis. The population suffers from a severe shortage of food, medicine and hygiene products, and although the government has promised some economic reforms, none appear to be immediate.
On Tuesday, Díaz-Canel complained to the United Nations General Assembly about the increase in the “aggressiveness of the U.S. blockade. … Not a week goes by without that government issuing statements against Cuba or imposing new restrictions.”
U.S. officials have rejected the Cuban government’s narrative and have pushed back on criticism that the sanctions may aggravate the situation of ordinary Cubans.
What the Cuban people are “going through, it’s a serious humanitarian concern. The embargo has specific provisions to allow Cuba to import food from the United States; it has exceptions for food and medical supplies,” said Mara Tekach, coordinator for Cuban affairs at the State Department in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Citing Cuba’s long-standing inability to feed its population, Tekach added that “the regime is the one that ultimately is failing its people.“
The sanctions and the unrelenting attacks on socialism have secured President Trump the support of a significant portion of Cuban-American voters.
“The Obama-Biden administration made a weak, pathetic, one-sided deal with the Castro dictatorship that betrayed the Cuban people and enriched the communist regime,” Trump said in the White House speech. “Today, we reaffirm our ironclad solidarity with the Cuban people, and our eternal conviction that freedom will prevail over the sinister forces of communism.”
Filipetti denied that the timing of the announcement was linked to the upcoming presidential election, as critics of the administration have suggested.
“This announcement, just weeks before the presidential election, shows what the Trump Administration’s Cuba policy is really about,” said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel. “It’s about South Florida and it places absolutely no importance on the well-being of the Cuban people, democracy, human rights or advancing U.S. national interests in the region.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres
At least 25 companies in tax havens had Cuban links
Nora Gámez Torres
The Miami Herald, June 7, 2016
The Cuban government used the Panama law firm involved in the Panama Papers to create a string of companies in offshore financial havens that allowed it to sidestep the U.S. embargo in its commercial operations.
El Nuevo Herald identified at least 25 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and the Bahamas and linked to Cuba.
The documents found in the Panama Papers are dated as far back as the early 1990s, when the Cuban economy crashed following the end of Moscow’s massive subsidies to the island. But Cuba kept its links with some of the firms until very recently.
Listed as a director of one of the companies is a brother of Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja — husband of Cuban ruler Raul Castro’s daughter and powerful head of the Cuban armed forces’ business conglomerate, GAESA.
The Panama Papers, documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with the McClatchy Washington Bureau, Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, among others, contain hundreds of thousands of pages from the files of Mossack Fonseca, a Panama law firm with offices in 33 other countries.
Offshore corporations have one main purpose – to create anonymity. Recently leaked documents reveal that some of these shell companies, cloaked in secrecy, provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.
Sohail Al-Jamea and Ali Rizvi McClatchy
The documents reveal previously unknown details about the Cuban government’s economic maneuvers abroad and the foreign companies that do business with Havana as some of the firms tried to hide Cuba’s hand in business deals to skirt the U.S. embargo.
One of the more intriguing schemes mentioned in the documents puts Cuba at the heart of a deal to sell Russian oil to Latin America through a company registered in Panama by the Bassatne family. The family controls BB Energy, a conglomerate founded in Lebanon in 1937 that buys and sells 16 million metric tons of crude and derivatives each year. One Bloomberg report showed BB Energy had $10 billion in revenues in 2012.
BB Naft shareholder Wael Bassatne told El Nuevo Herald that his company did not violate the U.S. embargo because it is not registered and does no business in the United States.
The Bassatne family incorporated BB Naft Trading S.A. in Panama, with Jürgen Mossack as a director. The company, which has offices in Havana and other countries, was created “to handle, among other things, its relationship with oil-exporting Latin American countries and with Cuba,” Mossack Fonseca lawyer Rigoberto Coronado wrote in an email.
BB Naft does not appear, however, among the subsidiaries listed on BB Energy’s Web site. They include BB Energy Trading Ltd., BB Energy Management S.A., BB Energy Holdings NV., BB Energy B.V., BB Energy (Asia) Pte. Ltd., BB Energy (Gulf) DMCC and BB Holding S.A.L.
BB Naft did business with Cuba between 1992 and 2001, trading oil for sugar “for $300 million, with credit facilities at low interest rate,” Coronado wrote. He added that in 1996 “there was agreement on a triangular Russia/Cuba/Naft Trading S.A. deal to deliver Russian fuel to other markets for a number of tens of millions of US$.”
One of the markets may have been Ecuador. A letter sent in 1998 by a Mossack Fonseca employee to the international trade office at state-run Petroecuador referred to documents sent by BB Naft “required to register the company.” A 2005 fax also points to an initial contact with the Venezuelan government’s Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
The relationship between the BB Energy Group and Petroecuador appears to have lasted until recent days. Petroecuador contracted BB Energy (Asia) Pte. Ltd., in February of this year to import 2,880,000 barrels of diesel fuel. In 2015, BB Energy won Ecuadoran contracts for more than three million barrels of naphtha, a petroleum distillate.
The Russian oil scheme appears to have been affected by the agreement between Cuba and Venezuela to exchange oil for medical services, and BB Naft expanded its work in Cuba in 2007 to include “the sale of spare parts and batteries for autos and trucks, work boots, farm machinery, hardware for USD 5.3 million.”
Records of a meeting in Dubai in March of 2011 reflect a decision to significantly reduce the capital of BB Naft, held by BB Energy Holdings NV., from $8 million to $1.050 million. Riad Bassatne and his son Wael remained owners of the remaining shares. Instructions for the change were sent by Iulia Ispas, legal adviser to BB Energy Trading Ltd.
Emails exchanged by Mossack Fonseca lawyers also point to company operations in Syria and Iraq.
One lawyer for BB Naft, Noureddine Kabalan, asked Mossack Fonseca in April of 2008 to create a power of attorney so that “the empowered person can be authorized to sign on behalf of the company in Syria and Iraq for specific transactions.”
A Reuters news agency report shows that the mother company, BB Energy, was still sending petroleum to Syria in 2011. Global Policy Forum, a non-government agency that monitors the work of the United Nations, also included BB Energy in a list of beneficiaries of the so-called “oil bribes” distributed by Saddam Hussein to recruit international support for weakening U.N. and other economic sanctions against Iraq.
BB Naft was listed in the Cuban registry of foreign companies operating on the island as of April of this year, with Riad Bassatne as director. Its Havana address is Centro De Negocios Miramar, 5ta Ave. E/ 76 Y 78, Ofic. 310. Edif. Santiago De Cuba. Miramar Playa.
BB Energy registered a company in Texas, BB Energy USA LLC., in 2014. Its official address is the same as that of BB Energy Trading: 140 Brompton Rd., London, SW3 1HY, United Kingdom.
Peter Quinter, an expert on U.S. embargo laws and former head of the International Law section of the Florida Bar Association, said the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba generally bars a company with a U.S. presence from doing business with Cuba directly or indirectly — through an offshore branch, for example. Such deals, however, may be authorized by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control or the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
BB Naft shareholder Wael Bassatne told El Nuevo Herald that his company did not violate the U.S. embargo because it is not registered and does no business in the United States.
“All the other commercial activities were not affected by any sanctions because these regulations do not exist as such,” he wrote in an email, adding that “Mexico, Canada and the European Union have laws prohibiting their citizens and companies from obeying U.S. sanctions” on Cuba.
Many of the Mossack Fonseca emails and documents show the relationship between BB Naft and the BB Energy group through the years.
In 2003, for example, BB Naft agreed to guarantee and meet the obligations of a loan obtained by BB Energy (Asia) Pte Ltd. from the Standard Chartered Bank of Singapore. The instructions to the BB Naft shareholders were dated and signed in Beirut, but the agreement for the guarantee was signed by lawyers and verified by the office of the BNP Paribas bank in Marrousi, Greece.
In another document, the lawyer Kabalan instructed Mossack Fonseca in 2005 to issue new shares for BB Naft because the originals had been sold to BB Energy Holdings N.V., a Curacao-based company publicly listed as part of the BB Energy group. The new certificates, for 800 shares, were to be issued in the names of 10 members of the Bassatne family, including 160 shares for Riad Bassatne.
The Web page of the Cuba-Lebanon Businessmen’s Council lists a Riad Bassatne as a member of its board of directors and describes him as “president of BB Naft Trading and member of the board of directors of BB Energy.”
Wael Bassatne nevertheless insisted that “there are no commercial or financial relations between BB Naft Trading S.A. and the BB Energy Group.” He added that BB Naft’s activities in Cuba included “the sale of spare parts and agricultural machinery.”
The company opened an office in Cuba, he explained, because he has been “a resident of Havana like his wife and three children, all of them born in Cuba” and Cuban citizens.
Secret Cuban companies
Other leaked Mossack Fonseca documents show the interwoven complex of offshore companies created by the Cuban government to import and export goods and invest funds abroad with the assistance of the Panamanian law firm.
Starting in the early 1990s, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade, through the Compañía Panamericana S.A, used Mossack Fonseca to create a string of disguised companies in Panama, the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands that bought and sold medicines, cigars and food.
Panamericana’s former director, José L. Fernández de Cossío Domínguez, is listed in the leaked documents as a director of Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd, Euro Foods Ltd, Racuza S.A, Caribbean Sugar Trader, Mercaria Trading S.A. and Sabradell S.A. Fernández more recently served as Cuba’s ambassador to Japan and economic attaché at the embassy in Paris.
The news website Diario de Cuba has identified the director of foreign investments at the Foreign Trade Ministry, Déborah Rivas Saavedra, as another of the directors of Racuza, Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd and Caribbean Sugar Trader.
The leaked documents also show that Guillermo Faustino Rodríguez López-Calleja, brother of Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, was appointed in 1999 as a director of Pescatlan S.A., a company incorporated by Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands in 1991 with an initial capital of $50,000. A letter sent to the Panamanian law firm in 1997 requested assistance organizing “a fishing operation in the Turks and Caicos Islands with Cuban-flagged fishing boats.”
The Mossack Fonseca documents nevertheless refer to Pescatlan as a Cuban company and do not identify the true owners of the company. Its ownership was in the form of anonymous bearer shares — the owners are whoever has those shares.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Calleja divorced Deborah Castro Espin in recent years, but he remains in charge of Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A., (GAESA) and the government’s signature port of Mariel development project. The Cuban military is estimated to control at least 60 percent of the island’s economy.
Guillermo Faustino Rodríguez López-Calleja also appears as the representative of seven foreign companies registered in Cuba: Acemex Management Company Limited; Caroil Transport Marine Limited; Nautilus Shipping Overseas Corp.; Northsouth Maritime Company Limited; Gulf Lake Enterprises Ltd.; Acando Shipping Co. Ltd.; and Gilmar Project Finance Establishment. They have addresses in the Miramar and Old Havana neighborhoods of the Cuban capital.
The Panama Papers also show that Labiofam S.A., the marketing branch of Grupo Empresarial Labiofam, a Cuban government company that produces vaccines, medicines and other products for the control of carriers of diseases, owns shares in BioAsia Ltd. That company was founded with an investment of 10 million euros from Vietnam, southern Asia and the United Kingdom and lists Mossack Fonseca as its registered agent.
Labiofam S.A. bought all the shares of BioAsia Ltd. in 2009. Longtime Labiofam director José Antonio Fraga Castro, a nephew of Fidel and Raúl Castro, retired in 2014 amid the so-called “revolutionary perfumes” scandal, sparked when the company sought to sell perfumes inspired by Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Little is known inside the island about the Cuban government’s companies abroad, but Havana economist Omar Everleny wrote in the early 2000s that there were “more than 100 entities with the participation of Cuban capital, founded as mixed [state-private] companies or as branches of companies based on the island” operating abroad in areas such as “construction, agriculture, food, medicine, mining, finance and science.”
Everleny, recently fired from the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, noted the paradox that a country that “lacks the capital for its own development has invested in other countries.” The motive, he speculated, is the U.S. embargo “that forced the establishment of a network of companies around the world to warehouse and market products from the sea, among them lobsters and shrimp.”
Today the export of products from the fishing industry is carried out through those companies,” he said, adding that Cuban officials also created “an international network of companies to warehouse and sell the famous Cuban cigars.”
One knowledgeable source who asked to remains anonymous said the Cuban government also has registered companies, ships and airplanes in Panama and other countries to get around the embargo and avoid court-ordered seizures to settle its many debts abroad. Those front companies, the source added, also help Cuba carry out foreign trade transactions in U.S. dollars, forbidden by the embargo until President Barack Obama lifted the restriction earlier this year.
“Every time something was purchased in dollars, it could not be done because the Cuban checks in dollars were automatically canceled because the dollars belong to the U.S. Federal Reserve,” the source said. “So the seller had to be told that payment would be in euros from a bank in Spain, for example, and Cuba lost on the currency exchange.”
Companies registered abroad are “legally not Cuban,” according to the source, and could be used for dollar-denominated transactions.
The leaked documents confirm the existence of these types of foreign companies, with at least partial Cuban government capital. Much of the Mossack Fonseca correspondence on those companies involves updates of company registries and boards of directors, payment of fees and requests for letters of financial status required to open bank accounts or sign contracts. Mossack Fonseca was listed as the registered agent for most of the companies,
Swiss lawyer Albert-Louis Dupont-Willemin appears as a director of several of the Cuban companies, among them Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd. and Pescatlan S.A. The Panama Papers show Dupont-Willemin as a director of a total of 49 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, five in Panama and two each in the Bahamas and Seychelles islands.
In one email exchange in 2011 involving a British company representing ALIMPORT — the Cuban state agency that handles food and agricultural imports, valued at nearly $2 billion in 2014 — that wanted to open an account with the BBVA bank, a bank employee in Great Britain asked why documents related to Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd had been notarized in Switzerland.
Emails exchanged by Mossack Fonseca lawyers point to BB operations in Syria and Iraq.
An accountant for the British company All Worlds Food Ltd, Jose Da Silva, answered: “I do not know the reasons why the documents were certified by a Swiss notary. I understand Mr. Dupont-Willemin is a Swiss lawyer and I believe it is for the documents to be more transparent and trustworthy. It is assumed that companies will have more trust in documents certified in Switzerland than in Cuba.”
The Swiss lawyer did not respond to El Nuevo Herald requests for comments on this story.
Hiding behind offshore companies
The Cuban government also hid its control of offshore companies by creating still other limited liability companies whose sole objective was to appear in registries as owners of the offshore companies — and disguise Cuba’s hand in them.
That’s the case of Racuza S.A., incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. It held all the shares of Euro Foods Ltd., which was registered in the Bahamas and in turn represented ALIMPORT.
And the case of Sabradell S.A., headed by Panamericana director José L. Fernández de Cossío Domínguez for a time and dissolved in 2008. Sabradell was the sole owner of Resimevis Ltd, a Mossack Fonseca client since 1995 dedicated “to general commerce of medical products and equipment.”
What’s more, a 2015 email indicated that the sole purpose of Curtdale Investments Ltd., registered in the British Virgin Islands, was to hold the shares of Ardpoint Company Inc., which in turn owned Altabana S.L. and Promotora de Cigarros S.L., two companies registered in Spain and involved in the sale of Cuban cigars
One of the directors of both Curtdale and Ardpoint starting in 2011 was Hernán Aguilar Parra, executive director of Grupo Empresarial de Tabaco de Cuba, known as TABACUBA, the government’s tobacco monopoly. Aguilar also has served as a deputy in the legislative National Assembly.
At times, however, the shield of anonymity over Cuban companies is not very effective. A convoluted email by a Cuban lawyer for Tecnica Hidraulica, registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), showed all its shares were held by Cuba’s Técnica Hidráulica, S.A. The difference: The name of the BVI firm has no Spanish accents, the Cuban company’s name does. The BVI company was dissolved in 2015.
The efforts to hide the Cuban government’s hand in the offshore companies means that its officials, lawyers and other employees used as stand-ins could eventually become the effective beneficiaries of the shares in those companies
A lawyer for Panamericana, Katiuska Peñado Moreno, and a former commercial attaché at the Cuban embassy in London, Alejandro Gutiérrez Madrigal, are listed as the beneficiaries of shares in Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd. worth $50,000.
The long list of companies linked to the Cuban government or active in Cuba also includes Sanford Management Financial Ltd.; Commercial Mercadu S.A. (linked to Panamericana); Amadis Compañía Naviera S.A.; Seagull and Seafoods, S.A.; Mavis Group S.A.; Octagon Industria Ltd; Travelnet; and Venus Associates Inc., among others.
Companies with Cuban capital or activities on the island
The embargo against Cuba is the oldest and most comprehensive U.S. economic sanctions regime against any country in the world. It comprises a complex patchwork of laws and presidential determinations imposed over half a century. Presidents have tightened or relaxed it to suit their own strategy—some seeking to punish the Cuban regime by economic pressure, other seeking to improve relations by resorting to soft power rather than hard. The impact of U.S. sanctions has also varied, at times inflicting serious harm on the Cuban economy, and at times being merely as an expensive annoyance. But the embargo has never been effective at forcing Cuba’s revolutionary regime out of power or bending it to Washington’s will.
(Reuters) – A survey of Cuban Americans in Miami shows eroding support for hardline Cold War-era policies adopted by the United States against Cuba, with a narrow majority in favor of closer ties with the communist-ruled island.
The poll, released on Tuesday by Florida International University (FIU), found that 52 percent of 1,000 Cuban Americans surveyed in Miami-Dade County oppose continuing the five-decade-old trade embargo against Cuba. That figure edges down to 49 percent among registered U.S. voters.
An even greater majority of those surveyed – 68 percent – favor diplomatic relations with Cuba. A similar number – 69 percent – favor lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Current U.S. policy allows visits to the island only under tightly controlled licenses for cultural and academic tours.
The results highlight the shift among members of the Cuban diaspora who fled the island nation to the United States to escape the rise of communism in the 1960s and show opinions have grown far less monolithic due to demographic changes.
Conducted between February and May as part of a periodic survey of Cuban Americans dating back to 1991, the poll found that younger exiles who left Cuba more recently were more favorable to changing policy than those who came in the 1960s.
The survey was funded by the Trimpa Group, a Democratic-leaning consulting firm based in Denver that promotes social change, and Open Society Foundations, which funds public policy causes and was founded by billionaire investor George Soros.
Miami represents the heart of the Cuban American community. “The Cuban enclave is changing at all levels,” Guillermo Grenier, an FIU sociology professor who helped lead the survey, told a news conference.
“The trends are clear,” Grenier said, noting that older exiles were dying while 20,000 new Cubans arrive in the United States every year under a migration accord with Cuba.
Only 8 percent of Cuban Americans ages 18 to 29 support continuing the embargo, compared to 60 percent of those ages 65 and older, the poll showed. In 1991, 87 percent of those surveyed backed the embargo compared to 48 percent now. Still, the latest poll found that a majority of Cuban Americans – 63 percent – support keeping Cuba on the United States’ annual list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with countries like Iran, Syria and Sudan.
“The results show that the (Cuban) government and the (Cuban) people are seen differently,” said Grenier. “There’s a certain willingness to throw the embargo under the bus, if there’s an alternative way to exert pressure on the government,” he added.
Asked if they would vote for a candidate who advocated replacing the embargo with support for private businesses in Cuba, 57 percent of registered voters said yes.
A larger majority – 81 percent – of registered voters said they would support a candidate who advocated replacing the embargo with a policy that increased pressure on the Cuban government over human rights.
Critics accused the FIU pollsters of ideological bias, highlighting the Trimpa Group’s lobbying ties to efforts to loosen the Cuba sanctions and promote travel to Cuba.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the pro-embargo group U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, pointed to a recent poll conducted for the Miami Herald newspaper that found Cuban Americans support the embargo by a 56 percent to 36 percent margin. That poll, conducted by Miami firm Bendixen & Amandi International, involved a smaller sample of 300 voters with a 5.6 percent margin of error.
President Obama can break free of the embargo against Cuba by asserting executive authority to facilitate trade, travel and communications with the Cuban people. Ted Piccone drafted this memorandum to President Obama as part of big bets and black swans: a presidential briefing book.
How should the U.S. initiate a dialogue with Cuban officials on trade, travel and communications?
How does Cuba easing its travel restrictions affect U.S. migration policy?
Congress may be hesitant to pursue talks with Cuba. What can Obama do to secure Congressional support?
Your second term presents a rare opportunity to turn the page of history from an outdated Cold War approach to Cuba to a new era of constructive engagement that will encourage a process of reform already underway on the island. Cuba is changing, slowly but surely, as it struggles to adapt its outdated economic model to the 21st century while preserving one-party rule. Reforms that empower Cuban citizens to open their own businesses, buy and sell property, hire employees, own cell phones, and travel off the island offer new opportunities for engagement.
You can break free of the straitjacket of the embargo by asserting your executive authority to facilitate trade, travel and communications with the Cuban people. This will help establish your legacy of rising above historical grievances, advance U.S. interests in a stable, prosperous and democratic Cuba, and pave the way for greater U.S. leadership in the region.
Early in your first term, you made an important down payment on fostering change in Cuba by expanding travel and remittances to the island. Since then, hundreds of thousands of the 1.8 million Cuban-Americans in the United States have traveled to Cuba and sent over $2 billion to relatives there, providing important fuel to the burgeoning small business sector and helping individual citizens become less dependent on the state. Your decision to liberalize travel and assistance for the Cuban diaspora proved popular in Florida and helped increase your share of the Cuban-American vote by ten points in Miami-Dade county in the 2012 election.
As a result of your actions and changing demographics, families are more readily reuniting across the Florida straits, opening new channels of commerce and communication that are encouraging reconciliation among Cuban-Americans and a more general reframing of how best to support the Cuban people. Cuba’s recent decision to lift exit controls for most Cubans on the island is likely to accelerate this process of reconciliation within the Cuban diaspora, thereby softening support for counterproductive tactics like the embargo. The new travel rules also require a re-think of the outdated U.S. migration policy in order to manage a potential spike in departures from the island to the United States. For example, the team handling your immigration reform bill should be charged with devising proposals to reduce the special privileges afforded Cubans who make it to U.S. soil.
Under Raul Castro, the Cuban government has continued to undertake a number of important reforms to modernize its economy, lessen its dependence on Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and allow citizens to make their own decisions about their economic futures. The process of reform, however, is gradual, highly controlled and short on yielding game-changing results that would ignite the economy. Failure to tap new offshore oil and gas fields and agricultural damage from Hurricane Sandy dealt further setbacks. Independent civil society remains confined, repressed and harassed, and strict media and internet controls severely restrict the flow of information. The Castro generation is slowly handing power over to the next generation of party and military leaders who will determine the pace and scope of the reform process.
These trends suggest that an inflection point is approaching and that now is the time to try a new paradigm for de-icing the frozen conflict. The embargo — the most complex and strictest embargo against any country in the world — has handcuffed the United States and has prevented it from having any positive influence on the island’s developments. It will serve American interests better to learn how to work with the emerging Cuban leaders while simultaneously ramping up direct U.S. outreach to the Cuban people.
I recommend that your administration, led by a special envoy appointed by you and reporting to the secretary of state and the national security advisor, open a discreet dialogue with Havana on a wide range of issues, without preconditions. The aim of the direct bilateral talks would be to resolve outstanding issues around migration, travel, counterterrorism and counternarcotics, the environment, and trade and investment that are important to protecting U.S. national interests. Outcomes of these talks could include provisions that normalize migration flows, strengthen border security, break down the walls of communication that hinder U.S. ability to understand how Cuba is changing, and help U.S. businesses create new jobs.
In the context of such talks your special envoy would be authorized to signal your administration’s willingness to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, pointing to its assistance to the Colombian peace talks as fresh evidence for the decision. This would remove a major irritant in U.S.-Cuba relations, allow a greater share of U.S.-sourced components and services in products that enter Cuban commerce, and free up resources to tackle serious threats to the homeland from other sources like Iran. We should also consider authorizing payments for exports to Cuba through financing issued by U.S. banks and granting a general license to allow vessels that have entered Cuban ports to enter U.S. ports without having to wait six months. You can also facilitate technical assistance on market-oriented reforms from international financial institutions by signaling your intent to drop outright opposition to such moves.
Under this chapeau of direct talks, your administration can seek a negotiated solution to the thorny issue of U.S. and Cuban citizens serving long prison sentences, thereby catalyzing progress toward removing a major obstacle to improving bilateral relations.
You should, in parallel, also take unilateral steps to expand direct contacts with the Cuban people by:
• authorizing financial and technical assistance to the burgeoning class of small businesses and cooperatives and permitting Americans to donate and trade in goods and services with those that are certified as independent entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, professionals and craftspeople;
• adding new categories for general licensed travel to Cuba for Americans engaged in services to the independent economic sector, e.g., law, real estate, insurance, accounting, financial services;
• granting general licenses for other travelers currently authorized only under specific licenses, such as freelance journalists, professional researchers, athletes, and representatives of humanitarian organizations and private foundations;
• increasing or eliminating the cap on cash and gifts that non- Cuban Americans can send to individuals, independent businesses and families in Cuba;
• eliminating the daily expenditure cap for U.S. citizens visiting Cuba and removing the prohibition on the use of U.S. credit and bank cards in Cuba;
• authorizing the reestablishment of ferry services to Cuba;
• expanding the list of exports licensed for sale to Cuba, including items like school and art supplies, athletic equipment, water and food preparation systems, retail business machines, and telecommunications equipment (currently allowed only as donations).
The steps recommended above would give your administration the tools to have a constructive dialogue with the Cuban government based on a set of measures that 1) would engage Cuban leaders in high-level, face-to-face negotiations on matters that directly serve U.S. interests in a secure, stable, prosperous and free Cuba; and 2) allow you to assert executive authority to take unilateral steps that would increase U.S. support to the Cuban people, as mandated by Congress.
To take this step, you will have to contend with negative reactions from a vocal, well-organized minority of members of Congress who increasingly are out of step with their constituents on this issue. Your initiative should be presented as a set of concrete measures to assist the Cuban people, which is well within current congressional mandates, and as a way to break the stalemate in resolving the case of U.S. citizen Alan Gross (his wife is calling for direct negotiations). Those are winnable arguments. But you will need to be prepared for some unhelpful criticism along the way.
Current U.S. policy long ago outlived its usefulness and is counterproductive to advancing the goal of helping the Cuban people. Instead it gives Cuban officials the ability to demonize the United States in the eyes of Cubans, other Latin Americans and the rest of the world, which annually condemns the embargo at the United Nations. At this rate, given hardening attitudes in the region against U.S. policy, the Cuba problem may even torpedo your next presidential Summit of the Americas in Panama in 2015. It is time for a new approach: an initiative to test the willingness of the Cuban government to engage constructively alongside an effort to empower the Cuban people.