Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 05.09.12

STASI records show Cuba deal included IKEA furniture, antiques, rum and guns

Documents of East Germany's STASI security agency provide more details

of the deal between Cuba and IKEA.

By Juan O. Tamayo

The controversial contract to use Cuban prison labor to build IKEA

furniture was part of a broader deal between firms run by the Cuban and

East German security services that also involved Cuban antiques, cigars

and guns, according to a researcher in Berlin.

Documents on the deal, found in the archives of East Germany's notorious

STASI security agency, also refer to Cuban prison labor and indicate

that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro personally approved the overall

deal, said researcher Jorge Luis García.

Garcia told El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday he published an article about

the deal in 2006 that mentioned the Cuban manufacture of furniture "for

export to Sweden," and posted a note about it in his blog, STASI-MININT

Connection, early last year.

But the deal blossomed into scandal last week after a German newspaper

reported that an IKEA subsidiary in Berlin and an East German company

had contracted for Cuban prison labor to build 45,000 tables and 4,000

sofa groupings in 1987.

The Berlin Wall fell two years later and East Germany — officially the

German Democratic Republic — disappeared in 1990 into the Federal

Republic of Germany, also sometimes called West Germany.

It remains unclear how much of the 1987 deal was carried out, said the

Cuban-born García, who was interrogated in the STASI's underground cells

in East Berlin in 1987. He now guides tours of the cells and researches

the agency's archives.

It was also unclear if prison labor was used to make Cuban products that

were not part of the IKEA contract.

One document Garcia found in the archives show the East German firms

involved in the deal were Delta GmbH and Art and Antiquities, known as

KuA, both controlled by the Interior Ministry, in charge of domestic

security. The STASI, which monitored and repressed domestic dissent, was

a much feared part of the ministry.

But the companies were officially branches of the government's foreign

trading agency, Kommerzielle Koordinierung. The agency was led by the

notorious wheeler-dealer Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, a STASI officer

who defected in 1989.

The document shows that the Havana side of the deal was EMIAT, and

described the company as owned by Cuba's Interior Ministry, or MININT.

Like its East German counterpart, MININT is in charge of domestic

security and runs Cuba's prisons as well as the General Directory of

State Security, which monitors and cracks down on dissidents.

García said the German-language document shows that three officials of

KuA and Delta visited Cuba and met with MININT and EMIAT officials Sept.

17-26 of 1987 to discuss a broad array of deals.

"There were visits to production centers. In part, those centers are in

penitentiary establishments of the MININT," Garcia quoted the document

as saying. "EMIAT wants to increase the use of those installations for

the manufacture of products for export."

The same document reported that Cuban Foreign Commerce Minister Ricardo

Cabrisas had met with the East German visitors and told them "This

cooperation has been authorized by Compañero Fidel Castro."

García added that the document also reported that EMIAT "supplies the

guest houses of the government and the Central Committee" of the Cuban

Communist Party. "It is also a commercial branch of the MININT."

A separate document, in Spanish and dated Sept. 26, 1987, is a

memorandum of understanding that lists all the agreements reached by the

East German visitors and their Cuban hosts, but does not give all the

details of all the deals.

The memo notes that the agreements included a deal on "the production of

furniture for export to Sweden" — the world headquarters of IKEA — with

a total value of 12 million German Marks. But it does not specifically

mention IKEA or prison labor.

It appears from the memo that Delta acted on behalf of the Swedish

furniture and housewares chain.

Also mentioned in the memo are deals on textiles as well as 10,000 tons

of grapefruit juice valued at 4.5 million marks, 200,000 bottles of rum

and 200,000 cigars — all three products highly coveted in East Germany

because of their "tropical" image.

KuA also ordered three containers of "antique furniture," the memo

added. Castro's government seized tens of thousands of valuable

antiques, paintings and sculptures as wealthy families fled abroad in

the early years of the revolution and had to leave their property there.

The Cuban partners also asked for KuA help in exporting to the

non-communist world what the document called "Oldtimers" — the antique

U.S.-made cars and trucks still seen in Cuban streets to this day. "400

Oldtimers are ready for export," the document said.

Also mentioned in the memo were sales to East Germany of Cuban

shellfish, coffee, precious metals and even coffins, García said by

telephone from Berlin. He also provided digital copies of some of the


But there was no indication of which agreements were turned into legal

contracts, or which contracts were actually carried out.

Cuba's economy went into a tailspin in the late 1980s as Soviet

President Mikhail Gorbachev began cutting subsidies to the island.

Other documents published in Germany last week showed that the initial

batch of IKEA sofas produced in Cuba had quality problems, and that a

group of Delta officials had to travel to the island to fix the issue.

There was no indication of what happened.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by three representatives of

Delta and KuA as well as EMIAT chief Lt. Col. Enrique Sanchez, the first

secretary at the Cuban embassy to East Germany and Gen. Santiago Borges.

García said other STASI documents show Borges ran MININT logistics.

García said another document in the STASI archives, reporting on the

East Germans' trip to Cuba, showed Havana authorities were so happy that

they made KuA president Axel Hilpert an honorary MININT colonel and

upgraded his flight home to first class.

After he returned to East Berlin, Hilpert brokered the sale of 2,200

U.S.-made Colt pistols in Cuban stockpiles — apparently left over from

pre-Castro days — to a Los Angeles weapons dealer, according to the

document quoted by García.

Hilpert, a long-time STASI agent code-named "Monika," became wealthy

after the collapse of East Germany, telling reporters that he had made

profitable contacts with Western business people during his years at

Kommerzielle Koordinierung.

He was investigated in the 1990s in a case involving forged Cuban mail

stamps, and the mishandling of some funds during the final days of East

Germany, and is now jailed while under investigation on other complaints.

But he is still the co-owner of record of the four-star Resort

Schwielowsee in the former East Germany, which hosted a 2007 gathering

of G-8 finance ministers. A single room at the lakeside resort near

Berlin goes for about $160 a night.

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