Monday, August 30, 2010

Is a foreigner's money safe in a Cuban bank?

Rio Zaza juice. Photo:

An Aug. 26 story in the Economist chronicles the fall of Max Marambio, a Chilean businessman now wanted for questioning in a fraud and bribery investigation in Cuba.
The Economist says the Cuban government's investigation of Marambio and his company Rio Zaza underscores Raul Castro's campaign against corruption.
I have no idea whether Marambio is a crook or not. But it seems that the Economist glossed over a key detail: Before there was any word of any investigation, the Cuban government froze some $30 million in revenue that Rio Zaza had in a Cuban bank.
Cuban authorities weren't just freezing the accounts of companies suspected of wrongdoing. They were preventing foreign companies from withdrawing their money from Cuban banks as a matter of routine because, as the Economist describes it, Cuban officials were "facing an acute shortage of foreign currency."
When Marambio complained, authorities began investigating him.
So what happened to the $30 million? My guess is that the Cuban government grabbed that. That's a theft that ought to be investigated.
I wonder how many other foreign companies operating in Cuba have lost their bank deposits for reasons that aren't entirely clear.
Now the Cuban government says it's changing the law, again, so that foreign companies may be able to  develop golf courses, Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told reporters on Aug. 1.
But how can any foreigner be sure his money is safe in a Cuban bank?

 Max Marambio. Photo: La Tercera

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