Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Foreign investment in Cuba

Come and see my villa

The regime has taken to locking up businessmen

May 19th 2012 | HAVANA

LAST year Coral Capital, one of the biggest private investors in Cuba,

released a glossy brochure for a property development. "Live in Havana,"

said the blurb. "You know you want to." It was anticipating a new law

that, for the first time since the revolution, would allow foreigners to

buy property, in this case around a couple of golf courses which the

company was intending to develop. Now Coral Capital's top two bosses,

both British citizens, are under arrest, caught up in an investigation

that has in equal measure bemused and alarmed foreigners doing business

in Cuba.

Since last summer dozens of senior Cuban managers, in industries from

nickel to cigars, have been arrested, along with some established

foreign businessmen. They include two Canadian executives who managed

trading companies. Another target was Max Marambio, a Chilean former

guerrilla and friend of Fidel Castro, who made a fortune after setting

up a fruit-juice company that was one of Cuba's first joint enterprises.

He was convicted in absentia.

Coral Capital says it has invested around $75m in Cuba, notably in doing

up the Saratoga, Havana's most luxurious hotel. Its chief operating

officer, Stephen Purvis, was arrested as he was about to take his

children to school. Though assured that he will not face serious

charges, he has reason to be worried. His boss, Amado Fahkre, was picked

up last October and is still being held (he has not been formally

accused of any crime). Both men have been questioned at Villa Marista,

the notorious counter-intelligence headquarters of the Ministry of

Interior. Cuban intelligence officials boast that, eventually, everyone

"sings" after a stay at the villa.

These arrests have not been mentioned in the state media. But they

appear to form part of an inquiry into illegal payments to Cuban

citizens. Officially, almost all Cubans, including the managers of

businesses which turn over many millions of dollars, are paid a state

salary of around $20 a month. Under-the-table payments are commonplace.

"We are somewhat in the dark here," says a European businessman based in

Havana. "If I pay my manager an extra $100 a month, as I feel I should.

Is that a crime against national security?" It seems so.

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