Posted on Tuesday, 08.09.11
Corruption again alleged in Cuba
Reports: Two Cuban officials fired for corruption, others under
By Juan O. Tamayo
A corruption scandal in Cuba has led to the dismissals of two deputy
ministers of communications and the head of the state's ETECSA
telecommunications monopoly, according to reports Monday.
Another senior official of the Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba
S.A. (ETECSA) is "under a criminal process" and yet another has defected
in Panama, according to the reports.
The reports appeared in the blogs Diario de Cuba, based in Spain and run
by a group of well known exiled journalists, and A Vox Populi, written
by Pablo Mendez Piña, an independent journalist in Havana.
They did not identify their sources and could not be independently
confirmed. But El Nuevo Herald reported Sunday that Cuban prosecutors
were investigating several top ETECSA officials for corruption.
Cuba's official news media has reported nothing at on the scandal, but
Havana residents said that word of the investigation and arrests has
been circulating in the Cuban capital for a few weeks.
Diario de Cuba reported it had received information that Ramón Luis
Linares, first vice minister of communications and information
technology, and Alberto Rodríguez Arufe, another vice minister, had been
Rodriguez Arufe previously served as Cuba's ambassador to China and as
No. 2 of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee
of the Cuban Communist Party.
The firings were linked to a fiber optic cable laid underwater from
Venezuela to Cuba and completed in January, the blog noted. Its $70
million cost, which includes a leg to Jamaica, was financed by Venezuela.
A "criminal process" also has been opened against ETECSA's deputy
director for economic affairs "and all her team," Diario de Cuba added,
and a vice president of the company defected in Panama.
The blog and some Havana residents said the scandals also appeared to be
linked to fraud with pre-paid cards for cell phones. About 80 percent of
Cubans with cell phones use pre-paid cards rather than monthly plans.
The communications ministry largely controls ETECSA, which reported $400
million in income in 2005 and is one Cuba's largest enterprises.
Mendez, meanwhile, wrote in his blog that ETECSA President Maimir Mesa
was fired the first week of July after an audit of the branch that
handles cellular phones detected "irregularities" of more than $800,000.
Prosecutors have detained the vice president and several other officials
in that section, he alleged, as well as several persons in the
transportation section because of a fraud with spare parts.
A vice president in charge of the transportation section who was in
Panama on business defected rather than return home, Mendez added.
This is the second house-cleaning at ETECSA in recent years.
In 2006, then-Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes fired one of his
vice ministers and ETECSA's chief in what one news report described as
"a drive to increase state control over the economy, improve efficiency
and fight corruption."
Valdes at the same time fired the head of Copextel, a state enterprise
involved in advanced communications, computing and other high-tech,
after some of its officials were caught taking kickbacks from foreign
Valdes, who also served two long terms at the head of the powerful
Ministry of Interior and is sometimes described as a possible successor
or rival to Raúl Castro, was replaced in January by Brig. Gen. Medardo
An announcement at the time said Valdes, who is also vice president of
the ruling council of ministers, would focus on his responsibilities for
oversight of the telecommunications, construction and basic industry