Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chinese Locomotives To Be Bought

Cuba: Chinese Locomotives To Be Bought
Sep. 30, 2006

Cuba plans to purchase 100 locomotives from China in an effort to
improve its railway transportation sytem, EFE reported Sept 29. Cuba
bought 12 locomotives, each worth $1.3 million, from China in 2005.
China is Cuba's primary transportation vehicle supplier.

Friday, September 29, 2006

In Rural Cuba, a Slow Road to Progress

In Rural Cuba, a Slow Road to Progress
Outside Havana, Scarcity of Cars Makes Horse-Drawn Buggies the Way to Go

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 28, 2006; A14

CASILDA, Cuba -- Tiny flames jump and sputter in the night here,
suspended above the roadbed as if held by an invisible wand.

The uninitiated must pull up close on these unlighted roads to realize
that the flames are leaping from small buckets that dangle from wires on
the backside of horse-drawn buggies. In the near absence of passenger
cars, these buggies serve as taxis and local buses in rural areas of
Cuba, and the flaming buckets function as homemade taillights.

Countless chroniclers of Cuba have observed that the vintage American
cars in Havana -- the fabulous, hulking Buicks and finned Chryslers --
make the capital feel like a city frozen in the 1950s. But outside
Havana, in the vast expanse of the Caribbean's largest island, the
ambiance often leans more toward the 1850s.

The roads are there. It's just that the cars aren't.

In the 4 1/2 decades since Fidel Castro's 1959 victory, small-town
Cubans have watched the cars that once lined their avenues cough and
gasp and eventually die, not to be replaced. What remains are mostly
vehicles that Castro's government considers essential to the country's
development -- heavy trucks to haul workers and equipment to state-run
farms and tractors to till the fields and drag bundles of cut sugar cane.

Transportation is a huge problem throughout the island, even in Havana,
where many of the vehicles still on the road are connected to state-run
tourism or government activities. Hitchhikers are everywhere, and people
wait hours to ride oversize buses that seem to break down as often as
they run.

Supporters of Castro blame the U.S. trade embargo for the transportation
woes and especially for the dearth of personal cars. Cuba makes no cars
of its own. Non-U.S. automakers that might normally be eager to ship
vehicles and replacement parts to the island are hampered because of
U.S. trade rules. Ships are prohibited from entering U.S. ports for six
months after making deliveries to Cuba, effectively blocking access for
those companies to the world's largest market.

Castro's critics view the situation differently, blaming the failings of
Cuba's economic policies after years of communist rule. The government's
weak financial position makes it impossible for it to place large enough
orders to overcome the limitations created by the trade embargo.

Either way, the result is that Irela Estela, a dermatologist who might
have glided home in a sleek European sedan in another country, waited
under a shade tree one recent afternoon for the clop-clop of horses'
hooves. Estela, who says with a wink that she is "thirty-something," is
among the growing number of Cubans who were born after Castro's
revolution 47 years ago and know no other Cuba. Like so many of her
contemporaries, she has never owned a car, and she seldom rides in one.

Her eyes tilted upward at the familiar crack of a rein on horsehide, a
sound that meant she could finally start home for lunch. Up the street,
in the humid shimmer of a scorching afternoon, a brown Creole nag bobbed
toward her.

The nag plodded so slowly that a youth on a bicycle buzzed past. Estela
waited, arms crossed, for the sleepy-eyed horse. Its name, curiously,
was Speedy.

The 1 1/4-mile ride to Casilda from Trinidad, a beautifully preserved
colonial-era town about five hours southeast of Havana by car, costs
Estela about 5 cents. Not much, yes. But then again, the government pays
her only about $30 a month for her work, treating the sunburns and bug
bites that afflict European and Canadian tourists at nearby beach resorts.

Speedy seldom hauls the tourists. His owner, a part-time pig farmer
named Ernesto Vuelta Ortega, sighs when he sees tourists whiz past on
funny, chauffeur-driven scooters covered by bright yellow, egg-shaped
shells. The scooter ride from the beach into town costs almost $5 -- a
pittance for vacationers but a fortune for the average Cuban.

"Yes, that's for the rich folks," Vuelta Ortega said.

He said he remembers gazing at the big cars in Trinidad when he was
growing up in the early days of Castro's rule. He was sure he'd own one
someday. But it never happened. The cars slowly disappeared, and Vuelta
Ortega just laughed when he grew up and people tried to sell him barely
functioning, or even inoperable, antique vehicles for $10,000 or more --
the average amount a Cuban would earn over 27 years.

A new car was out of the question. Cubans need government permission to
buy new cars, which usually go to government agencies or to people
involved in tourism and development, and almost no one outside those
lines of work can afford one if they could get permission.

Vuelta Ortega long ago veered toward the horse and buggy. Today, years
later, he knows everything that happens in Casilda. His passengers chat
with him as he takes them to weddings and funerals, scoops them up
sobbing and red-faced after lovers' quarrels or deposits them at work.

Far from complaining, many of his passengers seem to have embraced their
1800s-style transportation system. The leisurely ride fits the slow
tempo of their lives, even though most say they would jump at the chance
to own a car.

"This ride always clears my mind," a paunchy man named Sergio Ramirez
said as he shuffled bags at his feet.

Behind Vuelta Ortega, the passengers sat on the wooden benches beneath
his buggy's sun screen. A man with a lined face showed off a bag of
flip-flops that he had picked up in town for 3 cents apiece. Another
flipped a banana tree stalk that he'd found on the side of the road and
was planning to feed to the pig that lives in his back yard.

A few minutes later, a woman at the side of the road waved one hand
frantically at Vuelta Ortega as she clutched a young daughter's hand
with the other. Maria Rodriguez Valdepena hopped aboard, rubbing her
scraped right elbow.

A few weeks ago, she was going to splurge on a ride in a car taxi --
simply la maquina , or the machine, in local parlance. But the only one
that runs to the nearby town of Sancti Spiritus -- the one that leaves
just once a day -- was broken down as usual. She hitched a ride on a
flatbed truck, but the railing broke halfway there and she tumbled to
the roadside.

No more transportation involving engines for her, she said. From now on,
she'll stick with Speedy.

Transport Fair opens in Cuba

Thursday September 28, 02:32 AM

Transport Fair opens in Cuba

HAVANA (AFX) - Cuba's International Transport Fair opened Wednesday with
the goal of improving the island's ailing transport sector with the
purchase of buses from Belarus and China and a new railroad deal with
Venezuela, state-run media reported.
Representatives from 40 countries have exhibitions at the event, which
runs through Saturday. Venezuela, China and Russia rented out entire
pavilions, and Iran is attending for the first time, according to
Transportation Minister Carlos Manuel Pazo.
Pazo told the government's business weekly Opciones that the event will
try to ease transportation woes on the island but warned Cubans not to
have 'false hopes.'
Cuba's internal transport system steadily deteriorated after the
crushing economic crisis of the early to mid-1990s caused by the
collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's longtime backer. Cubans often spend
hours waiting for buses that never come, or are already full when they
The government stepped up recovery efforts early last year, importing 80
buses from China. It also repaired some 60 locomotives and 1,800 railway
cars for transport across the island.
The transportation minister said Cuba will sign an agreement with
Venezuela this week to form a joint-enterprise company to deal with
railway development. A plan to purchase 100 buses from Belarus will also
be announced, he said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Panelists focus on Raul's role

Posted on Fri, Sep. 29, 2006

Panelists focus on Raúl's role
Experts agree that the Cuban succession has occurred, but the future for
political and economic events is a big question mark.

Experts say economic reforms should be priority for Cuba's new president

The emerging government in Cuba will have its work cut out as it tries
to match the rising expectations from military brass, the ruling elite
and budding consumers, a panel of experts agreed at a Thursday seminar.

In a city used to abundant Cuba conferences, what was remarkable about
the seminar -- ''You Only Live Once: The Outlook for Economic Reforms in
a Post-Fidel Cuba'' -- was that while the future of Cuba is still up in
the air, participants are now speculating on what acting President Raúl
Castro will do -- and not about the actions of his ailing brother Fidel

The seminar -- sponsored by INTL Consilium, a Fort Lauderdale-based fund
manager -- played to a packed house at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Miami.

The morning event underscored agreement among pundits and analysts that
the absence of the elder Castro has not brought about an abrupt change
or a transition to a new style of government. Fidel Castro announced on
July 31 that he was ceding power to his brother while he recuperated
from surgery.

''Succession has taken place,'' said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the
Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of
Miami. ``It is an individual succession. It is also an institutional

Suchlicki said that he did not expect Fidel Castro to fully resume his
former position, possibly returning in a ``policy capacity.''

Frank Mora, of the National Defense University in Washington, spoke of
the deep divisions within the military, particularly after its ranks
were culled to 40,000 to 50,000 from 250,000, with many former officers
now running state-owned companies. ''What unites this elite,'' Mora
said, ``is the fear of the future, the fear that they could lose it all
if they start bickering.''

Mora suggested that Raúl Castro would have to create his own legitimacy
as a leader by coming up with a new model to combat ``deep frustration
about the standard of living.''

Phil Peters, of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., also
predicted that the new leaders would have to grapple with satisfying
growing frustration, particularly among young people.

''To me, some measure of economic reform is going to make some sense to
them,'' he said.

Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida
International University, predicted that political change would be more
difficult than economic reforms in a population tired of revolutionary

''There is an atomization and a fragmentation of civil society,''
Fernandez said. ``After 40 years of forced participation, there is a gap
between economic expectations and political ones.''

The seminar attracted a high-powered crowd. In attendance were Carlos de
Cespedes, chairman of Pharmed; Andy Fernandez, president of Bacardi
Latin America; Sergio Masvidal, president of American Express Bank;
Jacobo Gadala-Maria, president of EFG Capital; Simon Amich, American
Express Bank's Western hemisphere chief; and British Consul Keith Allan.

Russia Grants $355M Credit to Cuba, Restructures Recent Debts

Russia Grants $355M Credit to Cuba, Restructures Recent Debts

Created: 29.09.2006 11:56 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:01 MSK, 4 hours 17
minutes ago


On Thursday, Sept. 28, Russia agreed to grant Cuba credit worth $355
million as well as to restructure some of its recent debt. The decision
was made during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Fradkov said that Russia will provide Cuba with a 10-year $355 million
loan with interest at 4 percent per year. The credit will be used to
finance the delivery of Russian goods and services to Cuba in 2006-08.

The Russian official said the intergovernmental agreement signed by
Russia and Cuba identified seven areas in which the credit will be used:
investment cooperation projects, modernization of Cuba's energy sector,
reconstruction of water conservation facilities and railroads, the
design and delivery of air navigation systems, and the modernization of
the transportation system.

Mikhail Fradkov is the highest-ranking Russian official to come to Cuba
since a visit by President Putin in 2000. He was given a red-carpet
treatment by Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro, who is acting president
while his elder brother Fidel Castro recovers from intestinal surgery.

The press liaison at the Russian Embassy in Havana Alexander Bochanov
said Russia had agreed to res

Iranian transportation companies in Cuba for the first time

Iranian transportation companies in Cuba for the first time

Service: Economy
News Code :8507-04325

ISNA - Tehran
Service: Economy

TEHRAN, Sep. 29 (ISNA)-Two Iranian transportation companies take part in
the International Transportation Exhibition held in Cuba, for the first

For the first time the Wagon Pars Co. displays Iran's ability and
achievements in Rail Road constructions such as wagons, Locomotives and
other various pieces and the Industrial Export development Co. of Iran
also displays the productive abilities of great car manufacturing
companies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the International
Transportation Exhibition held in Cuba.

Also Iran's trade board and Cuba's transportation minister met in the
margin of the exhibition.

The two sides discussed the methods of quickening the appliance of
contracts regarding the export of various cargo wagons, cement and tank
and passenger transportation.

Cuba recognized Iran's presence among the 52 taking part countries in
the exhibition as the guest of honor and evaluated it as a positive step
to the development of the two country's transportation ties.

Rusia trata de relanzar comercio con La Habana

Posted on Fri, Sep. 29, 2006

Rusia trata de relanzar comercio con La Habana

El primer ministro ruso, Mijaíl Fradkov, comenzó ayer una visita de dos
días a Cuba para relanzar las relaciones bilaterales y firmar acuerdos
para reestructurar la deuda de Cuba con su país y la concesión de un
nuevo crédito.

Fradkov se reunió ayer con el gobernante provisional de Cuba, Raúl
Castro, en el Palacio de la Revolución de La Habana, donde ambos
asistieron a la suscripción de los acuerdos y participaron en una
ofrenda floral ante el Memorial José Martí.

Entre los documentos suscritos se incluyen la reestructuración de $166
millones de la deuda contraída por La Habana con la República Federal de
Rusia y un crédito de $350 millones para la compra de bienes y servicios

Estos acuerdos permitirán ''la ampliación de las relaciones
económico-comerciales, entre ambos países, así como el desarrollo de
proyectos conjuntos'', según indicaron fuentes oficiales en el momento
de su suscripción.

La visita de Fradkov es la primera que hace un jefe de gobierno ruso a
la isla en 15 años y la más importante desde que el presidente de ese
país, Vladimir Putin, viajara a La Habana en el 2000.

Además, tiene lugar cuando las relaciones comerciales entre ambos países
pasan por uno de sus puntos más bajos, después de que en el 2005 los
intercambios se situaran en alrededor de $200 millones.

La cifra queda lejos de los $3,300 millones registrados en 1991, tras el
derrumbe de la Unión Soviética y muy por debajo del comercio bilateral
en tiempos de la URSS, que llegó a representar el 70 por ciento de todas
las operaciones comerciales internacionales de la isla.

Apoyado en la venta de vehículos y los bienes de equipo para el sector
energético, Rusia trata de reforzar sus operaciones con Cuba y dar
continuidad a los colaboración comercial ya reflejada en la compra de
dos aviones por parte de La Habana el año pasado.

En abril de este año, ambos países suscribieron una ''declaración de
intenciones'' para la compra de cinco aviones por unos $250 millones.

El embajador ruso en La Habana, Andrey Dmitriev, aseguró en mayo que su
país recupera a ''pasos acelerados espacio económico'' en Cuba y
pronosticó que la mejora de las relaciones ''pronto'' se reflejaría en

Sin embargo, una fuente de la Embajada rusa en La Habana indicó a Efe
que a pesar de que ''hay buenas relaciones y hay sintonía en organismos
internacionales y en temas de actualidad'', en lo comercial ``aún hay
muchos defectos''.

''Hay muchas buenas intenciones pero desafortunadamente no hay
financiación'', indicó la fuente.

El crédito hoy suscrito y la reestructuración de la deuda contraída con
la Federación rusa para su pago en un plazo de 10 años con un interés
anual ''bajo'' y variable pueden reflejarse en nuevos contratos, incluso
antes de que Fradkov finalice mañana su visita.

El portavoz de prensa de la embajada rusa, Alexander Bochanov, no
excluyó hoy que se pueda cerrar la adquisición de vehículos por parte
del Gobierno cubano.

Más de una decena de empresas rusas en un pabellón completo participan
en la Feria del Transporte de La Habana, que comenzó el miércoles y
termina el sábado.

Medios cubanos indicaron esta semana que esa presencia del sector del
transporte ruso es ``algo que no sucedía desde hace varios años''.

Más allá de los acuerdos estrictamente económicos, Rusia tiene interés
en los sectores biotecnológico y minero cubanos y sabe que los más de
600,000 cubanos que se han formado en Rusia constituyen un capital
humano que puede ser aprovechado en el futuro.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Controlado el incendio en la refineria Nico Lopez

Controlado el incendio en la refinería Ñico López

Las autoridades investigan las causas del siniestro.


jueves 28 de septiembre de 2006 18:21:00

AFP/ La Habana. El incendio que se desató en la noche del miércoles en
la refinería de petróleo Ñico López, la más importante de Cuba, ubicada
en la Bahía de La Habana, fue sofocado la madrugada del jueves, con un
saldo parcial de al menos dos heridos, informó el cuerpo de bomberos.

"Todo está bajo control, fue un incendio en el cuartillo del líquido
blanco, donde hay gasolina. Al parecer se produjo al encender una
camioneta", afirmó a la AFP un portavoz de los bomberos.

Los heridos eran atendidos en el Hospital Naval, pero se mantiene en
reserva el estado en que se encuentran.

El fuego se inició poco después de las 20:00 locales del miércoles y fue
controlado hacia las 03:00 del jueves, según el vocero. Las autoridades
investigan las causas del siniestro.

Incendio de grandes proporciones en la refineria Nico Lopez deja al menos dos heridos

Incendio de grandes proporciones en la refinería Ñico López deja al
menos dos heridos

'Está encendido el petróleo y estamos trabajando para que no vaya para
los otros tanques (…) Es grave, pero vamos a controlar', dijo un
portavoz de los bomberos.


jueves 28 de septiembre de 2006 12:04:00

Al menos dos heridos es el saldo parcial de un incendio de grandes
proporciones que se declaró este miércoles en la refinería de petróleo
Ñico López, de La Habana, la más importante de la Isla.

Una fuente del Hospital Naval de la capital cubana, citada por la
agencia EFE, confirmó que dos personas resultaron heridas, aunque no
pudo precisar la gravedad de las lesiones.

Según la AFP, informaciones extraoficiales señalaban que podría haber
más víctimas.

Hay varias versiones sobre la hora en que se inició el fuego. Una fuente
de los bomberos afirmó que se produjo alrededor de las 19:40 (hora
local) en uno de los cargaderos de la central y por causas que se
desconocen, reportó EFE.

Otro portavoz del cuerpo dijo que se inició en un tanque de combustible
y hacia las 23:30, de acuerdo con la AFP.

"Está encendido el petróleo y estamos trabajando para que no vaya para
los otros tanques. Ya tenemos bastante técnica trabajando ahí. Es grave,
pero vamos a controlar, eso demora su tiempo", añadió el vocero.

"El incendio es de grandes proporciones, no controlado en estos
momentos, pero estamos trabajando", dijo otra fuente y señaló que se
investigaban las causas del siniestro.

Vecinos de la zona indicaron que sintieron tres explosiones y que a los
pocos minutos empezaron a pasar carros de bomberos, ambulancias y muchos

El área fue cerrada al tránsito por la Policía, que impedía el acceso al

Hace diez años, en diciembre de 1996, se registró otro incendio en la
Ñico López, ubicada en la Bahía de La Habana, pero fue sofocado en unas
dos horas y media, sin mayores consecuencias.

Cuba y Rusia suscriben reestructuracion de deuda y nuevo credito

Cuba y Rusia suscriben reestructuración de deuda y nuevo crédito
Hora: 20:01 Fuente : EFE

La Habana, 28 sep (EFECOM).- Cuba y Rusia suscribieron hoy un acuerdo
para reestructurar una deuda de 166 millones de dólares que mantiene la
isla con Moscú y un nuevo crédito estatal por 350 millones de dólares
para la compra de bienes y servicios.

Los acuerdos se suscribieron en presencia del presidente provisional de
Cuba, Raúl Castro; y el primer ministro de Rusia, Majaíl Fradkov, quien
llegó el miércoles por la noche a La Habana y comenzó hoy una visita
oficial de dos días al país caribeño.

El ministro cubano de Gobierno, Ricardo Cabrisas; y el viceministro ruso
de Finanzas, Anton Guermanovich, firmaron el convenio sobre la
reestructuración de deuda, "derivada de los créditos anteriormente
otorgados por la Federación de Rusia".

También suscribieron un crédito estatal para la financiación de
"suministros rusos de mercancías y servicios".

Los dos países no abordaron la deuda que Cuba tiene pendiente con la
Unión Soviética, estimada en torno a los 20.000 millones de dólares y
objeto de controversia, ya que Cuba considera que la retirada de ese
país de la isla con el derrumbe del campo socialista le generó enormes
daños en la economía.

El primer secretario encargado de prensa de la Embajada rusa en La
Habana, Alexander Bochanov, informó a los periodistas de los montos de
ambos acuerdos.

Agregó que el crédito contempla "fundamentalmente, la compra de
vehículos, elementos electroenergéticos y materiales para la renovación
de las plantas termo-eléctricas" cubanas.

Una fuente de la misma embajada precisó que la reestructuración de la
deuda prevé el pago del monto pendiente en un plazo de diez años, hasta
2016, con un interés variable anualmente ya establecido en el convenio.

Ambos países también suscribieron un convenio de colaboración
técnico-militar y dos acuerdos "técnico-bancarios" sobre los convenios
de deuda y de crédito. EFECOM

Incendio en la refineria mas importante del pais

CUBA- Incendio en la refinería más importante del país
Hora: 08:48 Fuente : AFX

LA HABANA (AFX-España) - Un incendio de 'grandes proporciones' afecta la
noche del miércoles la refinería de petróleo Ñico López, la más
importante de Cuba, ubicada en La Habana, con un saldo de, al menos, dos
heridos, dijeron a la AFP fuentes de la policía y del cuerpo de bomberos.

Un oficial del Ministerio del Interior dijo que al menos dos personas
fueron trasladadas al Hospital Militar 'Naval', pero versiones
extraoficiales señalan que podría haber varios heridos.

'El incendio es de grandes proporciones, no controlado en estos
momentos, pero estamos trabajando', afirmó un vocero del cuerpo de
bomberos, quien señaló que se investigan las causas del siniestro.

Otro portavoz del cuerpo de bomberos explicó a la AFP que el incendio se
inició en un tanque de combustible y hacia las 23.30 horas locales
(03.00 horas GMT) aún no había sido controlado.

'Está encendido el petróleo y estamos trabajando para que no vaya para
los otros tanques. Ya tenemos bastante técnica trabajando ahí. Es grave,
pero vamos a controlar, eso demora su tiempo', añadió el vocero.

Las autoridades bloquearon todas las vías de acceso a la zona para
atender la emergencia, y sólo podían ingresar camiones de agua y
ambulancias, constató la AFP.

Hace diez años, en diciembre de 1996, se registró otro incendio en la
Refinería Ñico López, ubicada en la orilla de la bahía de La Habana y a
unos 10 kilómetros al este del centro de la capital, pero fue sofocado
en unas dos horas y media, sin mayores consecuencias.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Prospects for Black Gold Putting Cuba in Suitors' Sights

Prospects for Black Gold Putting Cuba in Suitors' Sights
Chicago Tribune Tuesday, September 26, 2006

HAVANA, Cuba - Known more for cigars and rum than oil rigs, this
socialist nation has become the latest country drawn into the frenzied
hunt for oil, hoping that a gusher in its Caribbean fields will ease its
energy dependence and kick-start its economy.

After years of boasting about its energy potential but seeing few
results, Cuban authorities received good news last year when the U.S.
Geological Survey estimated Cuba's northern offshore basin contains 4.6
billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The amount of oil is roughly half the estimated reserves in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge, which President Bush wants to open for
drilling, and could provide Cuba daily production of about 300,000 barrels.

"Cuba is not Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, but it could become a major oil
and gas player in the region," said Jorge Pinon, former president of
Amoco Oil in Latin America and now a senior research associate at the
University of Miami.

Already, oil companies from Canada, Spain, Norway, Malaysia and India
have signed agreements with Cuba's state-owned company, CUPET, to begin
exploring in Cuban waters more than 6,000 feet deep.

Earlier this month, India's state-run petroleum company raised its stake
in Cuba's oil sweepstakes by signing a deal to join CUPET in exploring a
1,660-square-mile area off Cuba's northwestern coast.

R.S. Butola, a top Indian oil executive, said geological studies of the
area are promising. The initial exploration is expected to last several
years and cost tens of millions of dollars.

Bringing a deep-water oil well on line would take many more years and
cost $1 billion or more.

"It's a question of prospecting and doing a lot of work," said Butola,
managing director of ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of India's
state-owned oil company.

Venezuela's state-run oil giant, Petroleos de Venezuela, along with
Brazilian and Chinese companies, also are interested in exploring for
high-quality crude in Cuba's 43,250-square-mile offshore zone.

American oil corporations are barred from participating because of U.S.
trade sanctions against the island. The sanctions also would prohibit
the United States from importing Cuban oil.

Embargo opponents and oil industry insiders argue that the United States
should grant an exemption to American petroleum companies, much like the
law already allows for U.S. agricultural and medical exports to Cuba.

"We need all of the increased crude oil and natural gas that we can get
our hands on," said Charles Drevna, executive vice president of the
Washington-based National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

"It makes both economic and national security sense to develop those
resources either in our own waters or as close to our own waters as
possible," Drevna said.

The hope of a major strike in Cuban waters was buttressed this month by
the announcement that as much as 15 billion barrels of oil was
discovered in ultra-deep waters northwest of Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico.
It could be the largest U.S. oil discovery in decades.

"There has to be oil," Jose Luis Rodriguez, Cuba's minister of economy
and planning, said last week. "The form of the structures in the
Caribbean basin, in Cuba's waters, have the same structure as the oil
fields in the Gulf of Mexico, as much for the Mexican part" as the U.S.

In February, executives from ExxonMobil Corp. and other American
corporations met with Cuban officials in Mexico City to discuss oil
exploration in Cuba's gulf waters, which extend to within 50 miles of
the Florida coast.

But the meeting was disrupted after an American-owned hotel expelled the
Cuban officials under pressure from the U.S. Treasury Department, which
argued that housing the Cubans violated the U.S. trade embargo against
the island.

Cuban and Mexican authorities reacted with anger to the expulsions and
accused Washington of interfering in other countries' internal affairs.

One Cuban official who took part in the meeting was Manuel Marrero,
senior petroleum adviser at Cuba's Ministry of Basic Industry. He said
that only 16 of Cuba's 59 offshore oil blocks have been auctioned,
leaving plenty of opportunity for U.S. companies.

"We have 43 more blocks available for negotiation," Marrero said. "We
know U.S. companies are considering it. The ball is in the U.S. court."

So far, American multinationals haven't thrown their weight behind the
Cuba effort because the potential amount of oil at stake, while
impressive, is not yet worth the political battle and financial risk,
experts say.

Instead, American executives are focused on getting legislation passed
that would open millions of acres to oil and gas drilling in U.S.
territorial waters.

The U.S. House and Senate recently approved separate bills to ease
drilling restrictions in the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore areas
despite opposition from environmental groups. It is uncertain whether a
compromise can be reached before the end of the legislative session.

President Bush and influential Cuban-American legislators oppose U.S.
participation in oil exploration in Cuban waters, because, they argue,
it would strengthen the island's authoritarian government.

Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who introduced a bill in May
allowing U.S. companies to bid on oil exploration leases in Cuban
waters, said the political climate in Washington could change if
Democrats score big gains in upcoming congressional elections.

A strong opponent of the embargo, Flake said Democrats generally have
been more supportive than Republicans toward easing U.S. travel and
trade restrictions to Cuba.

Analysts say a major discovery that turns Cuba into an oil exporter also
could spur American business groups to lobby for a change in policy.

"Most U.S. companies don't care about Cuba because it doesn't have money
to buy American products," said one Havana-based diplomat who asked not
to be identified. "If they could buy the products, the pressure (that)
industry would exert would be far more than the pressure in Miami to
keep the embargo. The U.S. embargo would go away very quickly."

Energy has long been an Achilles' heel for Cuba.

After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the Soviet Union provided discounted
oil to the island nation as part of a huge assistance program. The
Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 ended the fuel shipments and sent the
Cuban economy into a tailspin as bicycles replaced cars and blackouts
plagued the nation.

To ease the crisis, Cuba opened the oil sector to foreign investment in
1999. Since then, Sherritt International Corp. and a second Canadian
company have helped the island's oil production increase to about 70,000
barrels a day.

But that amount covers less than half of Cuba's daily consumption, and
the poor quality oil retrieved beneath shallow waters is expensive and
difficult to refine, diplomats and analysts say.

Cuba gets about 98,000 barrels of high-quality discounted crude a day
from Venezuela. Cuban authorities believe even a modest strike could
ease the island's energy dependence and chronic economic woes.

"I am 100 percent convinced that in the next five or six years, Cuba
will be developing its deep-water sector," Marrero said. "We can expect
big results."

The efforts up to now have been inconclusive.

In 2004, the Spanish company Repsol YPF spent an estimated $50 million
drilling a test well 18 miles off Cuba's northern coast. Company
officials said they discovered high-quality oil but not in an amount
that was commercially viable.

Russia to offer tied loan to Cuba

Russia to offer tied loan to Cuba

RBC, 27.09.2006, Moscow 10:23:20.An intergovernmental accord will
be signed during Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's visit to Cuba
on September 28-29 to provide a state loan worth $355m to finance
purchases of Russian goods and services, RBC was told by a source within
the Russian delegation accompanying the PM on this visit.

This agreement was approved for signing at a Russian government
meeting on September 14, and the Finance Ministry was instructed to
facilitate the required funds for this purpose.

This will be a tied loan to be used towards purchasing Russian
automobiles and equipment, and thus it will support Russian exports, the
source explained. "This is a pilot project aimed at supporting Russian
exports. If it goes well, this practice may be expanded through offering
tied loans to other countries," he said.

37 States Now Exporting Food To Cuba $57 Million In Poultry Alone

37 States Now Exporting Food To Cuba; $57 Million In Poultry Alone

September 26, 2006 3:04 p.m. EST

Matthew Borghese - All Headline News Staff Writer

Havana, Cuba (AHN) - Ever since a Congressional loophole allowed for the
sale of food to Cuba, despite America's embargo of the communist island
nation, estimates say millions, if not over a billion dollars now pour
into the country through trade.

Companies from 37 separate states export food to Cuba in spite of an
overall embargo which has been in place for almost five decades.

Kirby Jones of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, a lobbyist who
represents dozens of U.S. companies in Cuba, tells CBS "The impression
in the United States is that Cuba is stagnant - locked into some rigid
communist ideology and structure."

"Cuba is totally different, hundreds of companies do business with Cuba."

Ron Sparks, Alabama's Commissioner of Agriculture puts some real numbers
on the table, and says only three years ago Fidel Castro's Cuba bought
only $1.7 million in poultry from the U.S.

"Now they are purchasing about $57 million of poultry and 40 to 50
percent of that comes out of Alabama."

The reason behind the massive imports from a starch opponent of the
regime in Cuba? Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart explains, "The
Cuban dictator has spent a considerable amount of money making
agricultural purchases to try to influence the Congress to get what he
really wants, which is mass U.S. tourism."

U.S. Companies Flock To Cuba

U.S. Companies Flock To Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba, Sept. 24, 2006(CBS) Life for most Cubans is a bare bones
existence. The average wage is about $13 a month. But health care and
education are free, and no one goes hungry because every Cuban receives
a food ration.

There are open-air markets all over Cuba with mostly home grown
products. But the truth is that Cuba doesn't come close to producing
enough food for its people, reports CBS News correspondent Russ
Mitchell. Up to thirty percent of the food Cuba imports comes from the
United States — that's more than from any other country.

Despite the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo, today U.S. companies are
flocking to Cuba — all because of a loophole Congress approved in 2000
that allows for the sale of American food to Cuba. What started as a
trickle has turned into a half billion dollar flood of sales each year.

"I think it's substantial," said Kirby Jones of the U.S.-Cuba Trade
Association, in response to a question about U.S. food sales to Cuba. "I
think in the $100's of millions or billions of dollars."

Jones, a lobbyist and deal-maker, represents dozen's of U.S. companies
in Cuba.

"The impression in the United States is that Cuba is stagnant — locked
into some rigid communist ideology and structure," said Jones. "Cuba is
totally different, hundreds of companies do business with Cuba."

Three years ago Cuba was purchasing about $1.7 million in poultry from
the United States, according to Ron Sparks, Alabama's Commissioner of
Agriculture. "Now they are purchasing about $57 million of poultry and
40 to 50 percent of that comes out of Alabama," says Sparks.

And it's not just Alabama. There are 37 U.S. states that export food to
Cuba, according to Pedro Alvarez, who oversees the importing of food to
Cuba. Alvarez thinks that U.S. food imports to Cuba would skyrocket if
trade was normalized between the two countries.

"In the first five years, trade and services would be more than 20
billion dollars," Alvarez told Mitchell.

"The Cuban dictator has spent a considerable amount of money making
agricultural purchases to try to influence the Congress to get what he
really wants, which is mass U.S. tourism," said Florida Congressman
Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart, like other critics of Castro, charges Cuba is hoping U.S.
politicians, eager to boost their state's economies, will pressure
Congress to lift the trade embargo.

"The political prisoners in Cuba ask us — keep the embargo until we are
freed, until political parties are legalized and elections are scheduled
in Cuba," said Diaz-Balart.

But two Cuban dissidents who spoke to CBS News say trade with the United
States could be beneficial to their cause.

"I agree with companies of United States here in Cuba because investment
comes with people, and people have ideas," Oscar Espinosa Chepe told
Mitchell. "These will be injections of ideas, democratic ideas."

In 2003, Espinosa Chepe was charged with sedition and sentenced to 20
years in prison. He was recently released because of poor health. His
wife, Miriam Leiva, is a journalist.

"I think little by little this could bring about democracy in Cuba,"
said Leiva.

Venezuela, Cuba to organize railroad joint venture

Venezuela, Cuba to organize railroad joint venture

Cuba is making plans to incorporate a new joint venture with Venezuela,
Cuban Transportation Minister Carlos Manuel Pazo said. As stated by the
minister, the joint venture will develop railroads in both countries

The Cuban-Venezuelan firm will buy buses from Belarus as part of a
government agreement on bilateral cooperation in the transportation
area, Pazo said, as quoted by Efe.

He noted that during a fair that will take place in the ExpoCuba
conventions center, on the outskirts of Havana, Venezuela will be
represented by important central government bodies, such as the
Infrastructure Ministry and Venezuela's Banco Exterior, the first Cuban
trade partner.

Last year, the Cuban-Venezuelan trade was over USD 3.5 billion and got
closer to USD 1.2 billion the first quarter of 2006, according to
official estimates.

Venezuela y Cuba crean empresa mixta ferroviaria

Venezuela y Cuba crean empresa mixta ferroviaria

Una empresa mixta que se ocupará de desarrollar la cooperación en el
sector transporte entre Cuba y Venezuela fue anunciada por el ministro
de Transporte de la Isla, Carlos Manuel Pozos

Pazo explicó que la empresa se ocupará de desarrollar ferrocarriles en
ambos países, y una primera etapa comprará autobuses a Belarús como
parte del acuerdo gubernamental de cooperación, dijo Efe.

Informó además que en Expo Cuba, una feria que se realizará en la Isla,
Venezuela estará representada por organismos de la Administración
Central como son el Ministerio de Infraestructura y el Banco de Comercio
Exterior de Venezuela (Bancoex).

El intercambio entre ambos países el año pasado alcanzó 3.500 millones
de dólares y se acercó a 1.200 millones de dólares durante el primer
semestre del año, según cifras oficiales.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cuba fires telecoms, computing chiefs in shake-up

Cuba fires telecoms, computing chiefs in shake-up
Mon Sep 25, 2006 2:19 PM ET
By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Cuba has fired the heads of two of the
country's most influential companies in a bid to bring the computing and
telecommunications enterprises back under firm state control amid a
national anti-corruption drive, industry sources said on Monday.

Information Technology and Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes, 74, a
former revolutionary hero, took over the sensitive sector that controls
communist Cuba's communications, computing, Internet and software
development late last month.

His was acting president Raul Castro's sole ministerial appointment
since he took over temporarily from his brother Fidel Castro on July 31
after the latter underwent intestinal surgery.

The shake-up at the companies did not appear to be aimed at opening up
the sector to foreign capital or to information and entertainment from
outside the country, said the foreign and local sources, all of whom
wished to remain anonymous.

They said Valdes was unhappy with the independence shown by some company
directors and their inability to rein in subordinates despite an ongoing
drive to increase state control over the economy, improve efficiency and
fight corruption.

Cuban President Fidel Castro declared war on corruption a year ago,
warning it could undo his 1959 revolution. Together with his brother
Raul, Castro mobilized youth and Communist Party stalwarts to root out
corrupt practices within the state bureaucracy, leading to widespread
sackings in recent months.

Valdes fired the president of Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA
(Etecsa), Jose Antonio Fernandez, and the vice minister for information,
Nelson Ferrer, for failing to control the fixed-line and mobile services
monopoly, the sources said.

Etecsa, with revenues of more than $400 million in 2005 and in which
Telecom Italia <TLIT.MI> has a 27 percent interest, is one of the most
powerful and visible companies in the country.

Valdez also fired the president of the powerful state-run Copextel
corporation which imports, assembles and distributes advanced
communications, computing and other technology, the sources said.

Copextel, with annual revenues of more than $200 million, has been
caught up in recent corruption scandals involving kickbacks from foreign

Etecsa's new president, Maimir Mesa Ramos, and Copextel's new boss,
Antonio Orta Rodriguez, were both promoted from within the ranks.

International studies have found that Cuba occupies last place in Latin
America for both mobile phone and Internet penetration, and is fifth
from last in terms of its number of fixed telephone lines.

The government blames the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo for its
poor communications infrastructure.

But Cuba's 11 million people cannot buy a computer or subscribe to the
Internet without a government permit, satellite television is
prohibited, and mobile phones are available only for hard currency.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle)

Invirtiendo en los cubanos

Invirtiendo en los cubanos

Más que apostar por el país, el proyecto 'Desatando reformas
micro-económicas en Cuba: Invirtiendo en los cubanos' apuesta por su

Armando Añel, Miami

lunes 25 de septiembre de 2006 6:00:00
Carlos Saladrigas, presidente de Cuba Study Group

Carlos Saladrigas, presidente de Cuba Study Group, durante la firma del
proyecto 'Desatando reformas micro-económicas en Cuba: Invirtiendo en
los cubanos'. (CSG)


Los últimos acontecimientos en Cuba, con el gobernante Fidel Castro
incapacitado para ejercer a plenitud sus funciones como jefe de Estado,
comienzan a precipitar las primeras reacciones al interior de la
comunidad exiliada e, incluso, del gobierno de Estados Unidos.

Es en este marco —pero sin suscribirse a él o constituir una reacción a
él— que el proyecto "Desatando reformas micro-económicas en Cuba:
Invirtiendo en los cubanos", auspiciado por el Cuba Study Group (CSG) y
la entidad mexicana Banco Compartamos, S.A., aspira a invertir en una
eventual transición a la democracia en la Isla.

"La idea surgió hace más de dos años, a partir de un análisis de los
problemas de índole económica existentes en Cuba", asegura a Encuentro
en la Red el presidente del Cuba Study Group, Carlos Saladrigas, dejando
claro que "Desatando reformas micro-económicas en Cuba: Invirtiendo en
los cubanos" no constituye una respuesta directa a la enfermedad de
Fidel Castro o a un traspaso efectivo de poderes en la Isla.

"Lo que buscábamos y buscamos es un despegue relativamente rápido de la
economía nacional —acota Saladrigas—, sin que el peso de los cambios
caiga desmesuradamente sobre las espaldas de los más necesitados".

La inversión se canalizaría a través de un programa de micropréstamos
que, según lo conciben sus impulsores, incluye asesoría y entrenamiento
a aquellos cubanos de la Isla dispuestos a desarrollar pequeñas
empresas. Saladrigas puntualiza que "se trata de una propuesta
pragmática, realista. El despegue de la economía cubana a través de las
microempresas es lo más adecuado. El proceso generará inmediatamente
empleo y crecimiento".

"Conciente de que el éxito de Cuba como Estado democrático y libre
dependerá fundamentalmente de la capacidad de sus ciudadanos para lograr
un mejor nivel de vida para ellos y para sus familias (…) —puede leerse
en el sitio web del CSG—, el Cuba Study Group ofrecerá apoyo financiero
y académico a los inversores cubanos, contribuyendo de esta manera a la
formación de un grupo activo de empresarios en Cuba".

Financiamiento y educación

Desde el punto de vista financiero, "Desatando reformas micro-económicas
en Cuba: Invirtiendo en los cubanos" pone sobre la mesa un paquete de
ayuda contante y sonante.

"En combinación con Banco Compartamos S.A. estableceremos un programa de
micropréstamos para Cuba que estará inmediatamente disponible tan pronto
como lo autorice la legislación cubana —anuncia la página del Cuba Study
Group—. Se ha decidido sindicar y financiar un monto inicial de
capitalización de aproximadamente 10 millones de dólares, con un plan
para recaudar importantes fondos adicionales".

"Decidimos invertir en conjunto con Banco Compartamos no sólo por la
relación de trabajo que nos une desde hace algún tiempo —especifica el
presidente del CSG—, sino porque es una entidad de prestigio, la más
grande de México y Latinoamérica, experta en micropréstamos y con
capacidad de adaptarse a las particularidades del caso cubano".

Como declarara a la agencia EFE Javier Fernández Cueto, director de
Estrategia de Compartamos, la experiencia del banco mexicano "ha
demostrado el extraordinario éxito que producen los microcréditos para
el mejoramiento de la calidad de vida de miles de familias".

Pero tal vez el ángulo más novedoso de "Desatando reformas
micro-económicas en Cuba: Invirtiendo en los cubanos" esté relacionado
con la página web que el proyecto pondrá a disposición de aquellos
cubanos con acceso a Internet.

Se trata de establecer un espacio virtual desde el que brindar a los
futuros empresarios "educación, entrenamiento e información sobre la
creación de pequeñas empresas y su operación". Aunque en Cuba el acceso
particular a la llamada Red de Redes es clandestino o semiclandestino, y
en consecuencia minoritario, existe una masa crecientemente apreciable
de internautas que se conectan con alguna regularidad.

El sitio web funcionaría en colaboración con el Instituto de Estudios
Cubanos y Cubanoamericanos de la Universidad de Miami, además de con
otras dos importantes universidades —fuera y dentro de Estados Unidos—
cuya identidad Saladrigas no reveló, y con las que actualmente se
mantiene en contacto. Se estima que la web entrará en funcionamiento en

"No hay que esperar a que sobrevenga el cambio —asegura Saladrigas—. Hay
que comenzar a trabajar desde ahora".

Ortodoxia y apertura

Lo cierto es que el lanzamiento de "Desatando reformas micro-económicas
en Cuba: Invirtiendo en los cubanos" coincide no sólo con el ostensible
deterioro de la salud de Fidel Castro, sino con recientes declaraciones
del ministro de Economía y Planificación, José Luis Rodríguez, en las
que La Habana volvió a apostar por la ortodoxia en materia económica.

Tras asegurar que en el primer trimestre del año la economía cubana
había crecido un 12,5%, Rodríguez enfatizó que La Habana descarta
abrirle espacios al pequeño sector privado: "Hemos llegado a la
conclusión de que el desarrollo del país no está en los pequeños negocios".

Una declaración que parece oficializar la sucesión según los estándares
económicos retomados en Cuba tras la consolidación del chavismo en
Venezuela, pero que, sin embargo, no hace mella en el optimismo con el
que el presidente del Cuba Study Group asume la naturaleza de su proyecto.

"No nos sorprenden estas declaraciones —reflexiona Saladrigas—. Más bien
dan a entender que el tema de las reformas económicas está a debate en
las altas esferas de poder en Cuba".

El empresario y político cubanoamericano considera que un gobierno de
Raúl Castro no alteraría el hecho de que la Isla necesita urgentemente
una apertura. "No hay que personalizar. Cualquiera que sea el próximo
jefe de Estado en Cuba debe comprender que la necesidad de un cambio es

"Por otra parte, es importante señalar que nuestro proyecto no tiene
absolutamente ninguna relación con el gobierno de Estados Unidos o sus
iniciativas —concluye Carlos Saladrigas—. Mantenemos intacta nuestra fe
y confianza en los cubanos. No estamos invirtiendo en Cuba. Estamos
invirtiendo en los cubanos".


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pebercan Announces Drilling Success in Cuba and Management Reorganization

Pebercan Announces Drilling Success in Cuba and Management Reorganization
Friday, September 22, 2006

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Pebercan (TSX:PBC) is an independent group specializing in the
exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Cuba, and is listed (PBC)
on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company also has a subsidiary
(Pebermat) that specializes in drilling services.


• Santa Cruz 302 well (STC 302) a success
• Gross daily production at Block 7 approaches 21,000 barrels per day;
Pebercan's share: 11,500 barrels per day
• Management reorganization

Continued increase in production
Prior to hook-up of the new well (STC 302, see below), total production
for Block 7 is now approximately 21,000 b/d, of which Pebercan's share
is 11,500 b/d(before taxes). This represents a 42% increase in daily
production over the same period in 2005.On September 7, the Company
finished drilling on STC 302, reaching a total depth of 3,671 metres
(–1,650 metres vertical depth) with a recognized reservoir length of 297

This well was tested using an 18-mm choke with a 3,000 bopd stabilized
production. The success of this new drilling will ensure a significant
increase in new production.

Furthermore, the wells currently being drilled (STC 201, STC 104,
Seboruco 150, Seboruco 14 and Canasi 10), as well as two extra wells
that will be drilled at Santa Cruz before year-end, should serve to
achieve the Company's objective as planned of a 15,000 b/d share of
gross production by the end of 2006 – a 60% increase over 2005.

On-shore exploration block
The Company is currently in discussion with the Cuban authorities
regarding its intention to renew – under the terms of a changed contract
– some of the mining interests it originally held as part of the non
ring fence contract for production sharing, namely in Blocks 12, 13, 15
and Varadero Profundo. A definite decision regarding this request could
possibly be made in late 2006/early 2007.

Management reorganization
On September 14, the Board of Directors appointed Mr. Christophe Ranger
as CEO, in succession to Frédéric Boulet. Mr. Boulet, whose work on
developing reserves, increasing production and improving the Company's
results was acclaimed by the Chairman of the Board on behalf of the
Company, now wishes to devote his time to developing industrial
activities as a shareholder. He will continue to serve as director of
the Company and will be available to carry out any mandate that the
President might wish to assign

Mr. Christophe Ranger will carry out the CEO's duties on an interim
basis until a new candidate with experience in the oil industry has been
selected through the recruitment process currently underway. Moreover,
Mr. Gilles Frachon was appointed CFO and corporate secretary in
replacement of Mr. Marc Sengès who has left the Company to accept a new
position outside of the group.

Finally, following the departure of Mr. Didier Lechartier, the Board of
Directors has accepted the appointment as a member of the Board of
Directors of the Company of Mr. Michel Campioni. He will act as
representative of Établissements Maurel & Prom SA,. Legal notes –
forward-looking statements The forward-looking statements contained in
this news release involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, as
well as other factors that could cause the Company's actual results,
returns and realizations to differ materially from the future results,
returns or realizations expressed or assumed by these forward-looking
statements. Under no circumstances is the Company obliged to update or
change these forward-looking statements on the basis of new information
or future events, or for any other reason, and specifically disclaims
any obligation in this regard. Additional important information
concerning risks and uncertainties is provided in the Company's most
recent annual and interim reports, and in other documents that have been
filed with the appropriate Canadian regulating authorities.

For more information about PEBERCAN, visit the OilVoice Oil & Gas

Banks' skirting of U.S. sanctions under scrutiny

Posted on Fri, Sep. 22, 2006

Banks' skirting of U.S. sanctions under scrutiny
Financial firms fined most often since '03; many called accidental

Bank accounts for customers in Iran. Lease agreements in Cuba. Money
transfers for Libyans.

Big banks violated U.S. sanctions against doing business in countries
such as Iran and Cuba more often than any other type of company, an
Observer analysis of U.S. Treasury Department fines since 2003 has found.

Three banks racked up six penalties each over the span, the most of any
firm. Charlotte's Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp. also paid
multiple fines.

The relationships banks forge with international partners were in the
spotlight this summer when Wachovia ended ties to a bank that reportedly
had connections with terrorist organization Hezbollah. And this month,
Treasury took steps to further isolate an Iranian bank from the U.S.
financial system.

The Observer analyzed nearly 400 penalties disclosed since March 2003,
when the government began publicly posting the violations online.

Most companies aren't trying to do business with designated terror
states or drug traffickers, and violations are mainly accidental,
Treasury and bank officials say. Still, critics are concerned about
banks' ties to shady customers.

"There needs to be a much greater commitment to hold these international
financial institutions accountable for their dealings with some of the
most corrupt elements in the world," U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
R-Calif., who chaired a hearing on terrorist financing this year, said
in a statement to the Observer.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, part of the Treasury
Department, enforces U.S. sanctions and embargoes imposed against
countries known for ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation, human
rights violations and other disputes with the U.S. The agency also
maintains a list of banned individuals and entities.

Over the three-plus years, financial institutions accounted for about
one-third of the total penalties and 90 percent of all fines, including
a $40 million penalty against Dutch Bank ABN AMRO Holding NV. The
nonbank violators ranged from large companies such as General Electric
Co. to small import-export firms to the New York Yankees for a Cuban

The violations included dealings ranging from money transfers to banned
travel as far back as the mid-1990s.

Overall, the number of violations -- by banks and other companies --
declined sharply over the three-plus year period analyzed by the
Observer. This year, OFAC meted out 10 violations totaling $309,404
through August, compared with 158 for $2.7 million in 2003, the analysis

Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise attributed the drop in
penalties to increased vigilance by companies since 9-11. The department
this year also ramped up a program that considers a bank's overall
compliance efforts and past violations before assessing fines, she said.

"We want to make sure the activities are true violations," she said.

Banks are frequently flagged by OFAC because of the large volume and
global nature of their transactions, said Andrew Davenport, vice
president of Conflict Securities Advisory Group. The Washington-based
research firm advises companies on the risks of doing business in
countries with terrorism ties. Many of the violations result from
oversights and errors in systems used to screen transactions, he said.

In public comments filed this year with OFAC, banks lauded the new
approach to assessing violations at an agency that has faced criticism
for a lack of transparency. Rohrabacher, however, is skeptical about the
decline in penalties.

"A reduction in fines is not necessarily reflective of positive
progress," he said.

4 violations for BofA

Of all companies, Citigroup, Bank of New York Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc
paid the most penalties, each landing six fines over the three-plus year
span. The violations ranged from funds transfers in violation of Libyan
sanctions to operating accounts in the Balkans.Spokespersons for HSBC
and Citigroup said the banks have stringent programs for complying with
OFAC regulations. Neither bank has had an infraction since 2004. A
spokesman for Bank of New York, which paid two penalties last year,
declined comment.

Among Charlotte's big banks, Bank of America paid four penalties between
2003 and 2005, totaling about $183,000 in fines.

The bank's biggest fine came in 2003, when it paid $162,346 -- the fifth
biggest of any company -- for violations of sanctions against Iran.
According to OFAC, the bank had handled funds transfers between 1999 and
2000 and accounts between 1995 and 2000.

The U.S. has had strained relations with Iran since 1979, when students
took American Embassy personnel hostage. Through a series of executive
orders, U.S. presidents have prohibited virtually all trade and
investment with the country, citing its sponsorship of terrorism and
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton said the bank reached a
voluntary settlement after several inadvertent violations. She said the
bank couldn't disclose details for privacy reasons, but that the
violations did not involve terrorism or drug trafficking.

The bank operates a state-of-the-art compliance program that has
successfully blocked transactions and accounts totaling tens of millions
of dollars, Norton said. "While our OFAC compliance program is highly
effective, we handle many millions of international transactions and
occasionally an inadvertent or systems error occurs," she said.

In public comments to OFAC this year, the bank praised the agency's new
approach to evaluating violations. "In the past, the imposition of
penalties by OFAC have appeared to have an inconsistent consideration of
an institution's history," associate general counsel David Miller wrote.

3 penalties for Wachovia

Wachovia paid three penalties between 2004 and 2005 for a total of about
$35,000 in fines. The violations included the operation of accounts and
funds transfers in violation of sanctions against Iran and Libya between
2000 and 2002.

President Bush in 2004 lifted sanctions against Libya after the country
promised to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program.

Wachovia has comprehensive policies and procedures, including extensive
staff training and software filters, to ensure the company complies with
OFAC regulations, spokeswoman Elizabeth Pollet said.

"Wachovia is committed to compliance with all applicable laws and works
closely with OFAC," she said, declining to comment on specific violations.

OFAC started disclosing limited information about penalties on its Web
site in 2003, and in the past year began posting more details. The
Observer filed a Freedom of Information Act request in August for more
information about some Bank of America and Wachovia cases, but the
Treasury Department said it has a backlog of requests and has not yet

Wachovia in recent years has been expanding its correspondent banking
operations, which process U.S. dollar transactions for other foreign
banks. Last year, the bank acquired the correspondent banking business
of San Francisco-based Union Bank of California, which paid four
penalties for a total of about $37,000 between 2003 and 2005.

Pollet said the bank extensively researches acquisitions, but declined
comment on the violations.

The bank faced controversy in July when NBC News reported that Wachovia
had a relationship with a bank in Lebanon that Israel contended was
helping finance Hezbollah's attacks on the Jewish state. After being
contacted by the network, Wachovia ended the correspondent banking
relationship with Middle East and Africa Bank.

That bank is not on the list of banned organizations maintained by OFAC
and the U.S. government has no sanctions program against Lebanon.

Ongoing focus

In March, Rohrabacher held a hearing on international banking
institutions and alleged connections to corruption and the war on
terrorism. One of the focuses was Swiss bank UBS, which the Federal
Reserve fined $100 million in 2004 for allegedly sending U.S. dollars to
Cuba, Libya, Iran and the former Yugoslavia in violation of U.S.
sanctions.The bank was fined by the Fed, not OFAC, because it operated a
trading center on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It
wasn't supposed to accept or deliver U.S. currency to banks in countries
under sanctions.

If he remains chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee
on Oversight and Investigations after the November election, Rohrabacher
said, he plans to further investigate banks.

Davenport, of Conflict Securities, said he expects the issue to remain
forefront for banks and other companies because of the potential
backlash among customers and investors.

"As the public is more attuned to the risks presented by Iran and other
U.S.-sanctioned states, the reputational risk associated with business
ties to these countries increases," he said.

Most Penalties

Here are the top violators from 2003 through August 2006.

Bank of New York 6
Citigroup 6
JPMorgan Chase 5
Union Bank of Calif. 4
Deutsche Bank 4
Bank of America 4
American Express 4
Wachovia 3

Top 5 OFAC Fines

Largest fines levied from 2003 through August 2006.

ABN AMRO* $40 million 2005
Zim American Israeli Shipping $250,000 2003
IGI (cosmetics) $225,000 2003
Chiron (health care) $168,500 2004
Bank of America $162,346 2003

*Fine involved other U.S. regulators.

El sector financiero cubano: ida y venida

Posted on Sat, Sep. 23, 2006

El sector financiero cubano: ida y venida

Un manido dicho expresa que quienes controlan el pasado, controlan el
futuro; y quienes controlan el presente, controlan el pasado.

Una de las repetidas monsergas de los que escriben sobre Cuba es que en
los 1950 estaba entre los líderes económicos, sociales y políticos de
América Latina. En realidad los niveles cubanos la hacían comparable a
los países europeos avanzados, a los estados sureños más pobres de
Estados Unidos, y en Asia, al Japón. Creo que algunos me han leído y
oído cuando he hecho referencia en el pasado al estudio de Harry Oshima,
economista de Stanford, que realizó uno de los primeros estudios de
paridad de poder adquisitivo a mediados de la quinta década del siglo
pasado, y estableció esta conclusión. Es más, ya 15 años después de
nuestra independencia habíamos alcanzado estos niveles.

En buena parte esto se debió al grado de desarrollo financiero del país.
Para mediados de la década de 1910, presten atención, Cuba presentaba el
nivel de desarrollo financiero relativo más alto del mundo. Esto se
acaba de corroborar en un estudio del Banco Mundial.

El secreto detrás de estos logros fue la quintuplicación de la
producción azucarera cubana, durante el primer cuarto del siglo XX, lo
cual trajo considerables inversiones extranjeras y el establecimiento de
numerosos bancos, casas financieras y la Bolsa de la Habana, para
financiar la agricultura, la industria y el comercio del azúcar. Cuba se
convirtió en el mayor productor y exportador del mundo, y la Cuban Sugar
Cane Company la compañía más grande del giro. Pero lo más importante de
esta actividad fue su disgregación por casi todos los 169 municipios
cubanos, y su efecto propulsor de obras de infraestructura
(ferrocarriles, carreteras, etc.), servicios sociales (educación, salud,
etc.), fábricas manufactureras (derivadas y suplidoras del negocio
azucarero) y servicios de intermediación (finanzas, almacenes, etc.).
Complementado con la conquista de la frontera económica cubana (Camagüey
y Oriente).

Aparejado a lo anterior debemos destacar los recursos humanos. La
población prácticamente se triplica durante estos años, en base a una de
las inmigraciones relativas más desbordantes del mundo. Pero la
actividad económica crece aún más rápidamente, y el balance comercial
externo es siempre favorable (al igual que el fiscal), determinando que
los niveles de precios se mantengan bajos, y los salarios reales
comparativamente altos. A esto último también contribuyen la fuerte
sindicalización y la intervención gubernamental en los pliegos
salariales y contrataciones colectivas, casi siempre favorable a los
trabajadores. Todo ello determinó que los salarios agrícolas e
industriales de Cuba estuvieran entre los más altos del mundo.

Cuba nunca tuvo problemas para financiar sus actividades económicas. Ya
fuere con los mayoritarios fondos cubanos, o los restantes, que
provenían de los países del exterior más adelantados en las finanzas
mundiales. Cuando fue redituable el explotar los recursos de níquel
cubano, los terceros yacimientos del mundo, aparecía la capitalización.
En caso que se necesitaran más recursos energéticos, surgía prontamente
una nueva refinería. Si se trataba de remozar las colonias o centrales
azucareros, los préstamos no dejaban de llover. Para la vivienda estaban
los bancos de capitalización y ahorro, las entidades de ahorro y
préstamos y el fondo de hipotecas aseguradas. Para los productos no
tradicionales en la agricultura o la industria existían los avales del
Banco de Fomento Agrícola e Industrial de Cuba (BANFAIC), que también
cubría la pesca. La deuda del gobierno, externa e interna, era ínfima,
lo que hacía posible el financiamiento de los servicios y obras públicas.

Todo esto se trabó con las confiscaciones masivas de las empresas
extranjeras y nacionales en 1960. Cerró la Bolsa de la Habana. Los
bancos, compañías de seguros y otros agentes financieros fueron
sustituidos por la tesorería nacional, a su vez financiada directamente
por el Banco Nacional de Cuba, convertido en máquina de imprimir
billetes. Los presupuestos nacionales desaparecen, y la contabilidad
gerencial se convierte en mala palabra. Como consecuencia la producción
cubana cae estrepitosamente durante la década de 1960. Y para mantener a
la población en una cámara de oxígeno económica, se necesitó un
súper-plan Marshall de ayuda externa proveniente del bloque comunista,
que terminó quebrando a la Unión Soviética.

Hoy se ha llegado al fondo del barril. Cuba no puede rescatar su
industria azucarera por falta de financiamiento. Aumentar su producción
niquelífera por falta de financiamiento. Buscar soluciones energéticas
por falta de financiamiento, etc., etc., etc..

Mientras tanto, el ministro-presidente (título irrepetido) del nuevo y
quebrado Banco Central de Cuba ha creado un esqueleto financiero para
acomodar a cada grupúsculo de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias: la
llamada Nueva Banca. Claro está, prácticamente sin fondos cada uno de
ellos, pero dispuestos a la cifarra de la ayuda externa venezolana. Para
ustedes el Banco Exterior. Para aquellos el Banco Financiero. Para los
de allá, el Metropolitano. Para los de acá, el de Inversiones. Al paso
que se evapora la última gota de financiamiento cubano, los pirañas de
la piñata cubana, se llenan los bolsillos de petrobolívares.

Sol Melia quiere seguir creciendo en Cuba

Sol Meliá quiere seguir creciendo en Cuba
Jueves 21 de Septiembre, 2006 4:56 GMT

MADRID (Reuters) - El grupo hotelero Sol Meliá dijo el jueves que quiere
seguir desarrollando su negocio en Cuba, una de sus principales
bastiones en Latinoamérica.

"Cuba es un país estratégico y queremos seguir creciendo. Vemos mucho
potencial", dijo Gabriel Escarrer, consejero delegado de la cadena
hotelera mallorquina, en una entrevista con Reuters.

Sol Meliá dispone de 22 hoteles en Cuba y es líder de mercado, con una
cuota del 37 por ciento en el segmento de los hoteles de cuatro y cinco

No obstante, Escarrer dijo que el riesgo económico para Sol Meliá en
este mercado es muy limitado, ya que los hoteles no son de su propiedad
sino que sólo están bajo su gerencia.

"El riesgo es relativamente pequeño y el beneficio alto", dijo.

Pero Sol Meliá no sólo tiene planes expansión para Cuba sino también
crecerá en otras regiones.

A principios de octubre inaugurará un hotel de 360 habitaciones en el
centro de Berlín y a mediados de 2007 un hotel de 800 habitaciones en
China, cerca de Shanghai.

"Llegaremos a tiempo para los Juegos Olímpicos", dijo Escarrer.


Escarrer dijo que Sol Meliá notó en septiembre - primer aniversario de
los huracanes Katrina y Wilma - el miedo de sus clientes estadounidenses
a la temporada de huracanes en el Caribe.

"Es un tema que hasta ahora no había afectado tanto" (primer aniversario
Kathrina /Wilma). "Los americanos se lo piensan dos veces antes de
acudir en septiembre o en octubre. Pero estamos hablando de un mes, mes
y medio.

No obstante, Escarrer dijo que la repercusión en la cuenta de los
resultados del grupo ha sido mínima.

El consejero delegado de Sol Meliá dijo que la reticencia de los
clientes estadounidenses se vio eclipsada por el fuerte crecimiento de
Cuba, uno de los destinos preferidos por los turistas europeos y

"Las tasas (de ocupación) en Cuba han aumentado en dos dígitos", dijo.

Sol Meliá cuenta con unos 350 hoteles en el mundo y consigue el 40 por
ciento de sus ingresos en Latinoamérica y el 60 por ciento restante, en

/Por Ben Harding and Robert Hetz/

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ONGC to scout for oil assets in Kazakhstan, Cuba

ONGC to scout for oil assets in Kazakhstan, Cuba

Tuesday September 19, 05:17 PM

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) State-owned exploration major Oil and Natural
Gas Corp (ONGC) Tuesday said it is looking at partnering national oil
companies abroad to acquire hydrocarbon assets in countries like
Kazakhstan and Cuba.

At the company's annual general meeting, chairman and managing director
R.S. Sharma also announced a bonus issue for shareholders in the ratio
of one share for every five held in the company.

'The board had proposed bonus issue in August and the annual general
meeting has approved it today. The bonus shares will be issued in
November,' Sharma said.

The company top brass was also optimistic on winning several
hydrocarbons in the latest round of exploration bids announced by the
Indian petroleum ministry. 'We are really hopeful of grabbing
substantial blocks,' he said.

The top ONGC official said the company would be getting the first
consignment of 90,000 tonnes of crude oil from the Sakhalin oil field in
Russia in the second week of November. 'It will be processed at
Mangamore Refinery,' he added.

ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas investing arm of the state-run company,
has a 20-percent stake in Sakhalin-I oil field.

The ONGC chairman said that the company was also looking at importing
liquefied petroleum gas. 'Gas is an emerging fuel of the decade and its
derivatives have a huge business potential,' Sharma said.

El Gobierno cubano espera cerrar muy pronto la entrada de Globalia en la isla con sus tres primeros hoteles

Cuba.- El Gobierno cubano espera cerrar "muy pronto" la entrada de
Globalia en la isla con sus tres primeros hoteles

Fecha: 19/9/2006 Fuente : Europa Press

González confía en superar los 200.000 turistas españoles en 2006 y
volver a sobrepasar los dos millones de visitantes extranjeros

El Gobierno cubano aseguró hoy que las negociaciones con el grupo
español Globalia para entrar en el mercado hotelero de la isla están
"muy avanzadas" y confió en que "muy pronto" se cierre el acuerdo para
que la empresa de la familia Hidalgo adquiera la gestión de tres
establecimientos en Cuba.

Así lo confirmó hoy el viceministro de Turismo de Cuba, Oscar González,
en una entrevista concedida a Europa Press con motivo de la visita que
realiza estos días a Madrid para reunirse con los principales
turoperadores y agencias de viaje españoles presentes en la isla caribeña.

"Globalia lleva tiempo analizando la posibilidad de entrar en el mercado
hotelero de Cuba con tres establecimiento nuevos. Ellos se han
presentado ya a la licitación, ahora estamos negociando y todo está muy
avanzado. Lo cierto es que está muy próximo a cerrarse", indicó el

Por otro lado, se refirió a Sol Meliá, que abrirá en las próximas
semanas su hotel número 23 en Cuba, que se llamará 'Meliá Las Dunas', en
Cayo Santa María. Además, según González, la cadena ha solicitado a las
autoridades mayor número de habitaciones. "Estamos negociando pero de
momento no hay nada decidido", indicó.

Con respecto al grupo Marsans, el viceministro de Turismo recordó que la
cadena ha expresado en varias ocasiones su voluntad de crecer en Cuba a
través de la marca Hotetur e introducir en la isla este tipo de hoteles
que, según resaltó, son de mayor categoría que los que tiene actualmente.

Así, el representante del Ministerio de Turismo cubano resaltó la
importante presencia de las empresas turísticas españolas en Cuba, donde
de los 42.000 habitaciones existentes en la actualidad, unas 19.000 son
gestionadas por cadenas extranjeras. "Y de esas muchas son de empresas
españolas", subrayó.


En este punto, González también quiso destacar el crecimiento que se
está registrando en la llegada de turistas españoles a Cuba, que en lo
que va de año ha aumentado un 6% respecto a la temporada de 2005, cuando
se cerró con una "histórica" subida del 32%.

"Este año esperamos superar los 200.000 turistas españoles que visitan
la isla. El año pasado casi llegamos a los 200.000 viajeros. Y en
números globales, estamos convencidos de que volveremos a superar al
cifra récord de dos millones de turistas extranjeros", indicó González.

Durante su estancia en Madrid el viceministro se ha reunido con agencias
de viajes minoristas para preparar la próxima temporada y explicarles
los avances en la planta hotelera de La Habana, en la que se han
invertido en los últimos tiempos un total de 20 millones de dólares.

Además, el viceministro de Turismo adelantó que ya está casi cerrada una
nueva campaña de promoción internacional que estará lista para antes de
que concluya el año y en la que se invertirá "más de lo que gastamos en
la campaña anterior", campaña que confió en poder presentar durante la
próxima edición de FITUR en Madrid.

Por último, anunció que la próxima Feria Internacional de Turismo de
Cuba, que se volverá a celebrar en el Parque Morro Cabaña de La Habana,
será del 8 al 12 de mayo de 2007 y estará dedicada a Canadá, el
principal mercado para Cuba, edición en la que se centrarán en la
promoción de los Cayos cubanos.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ataca insecto plantaciones de cafe en Guantanamo

Ataca insecto plantaciones de café en Guantánamo

Por Mario Hechavarría Driggs

Bitácora Cubana, 18 de septiembre de 2006 - La Habana

Desde la oriental provincia de Guantánamo y vía telefónica llegó una
información del profesor Julián Antonio Monet Borrero en la que dice que
las plantaciones de café del municipio de Maisí están sufriendo una
plaga de Broca, insecto de color negro del tamaño de un grano de
mostaza, que provoca grandes daños a las plantaciones.

Según Monet Borrero, en el municipio de Maisí se realizan intensas
labores de fumigación en las zonas infectadas y grupos de campesinos
derriban y queman gran cantidad de hectáreas de matas de café con el
objetivo de eliminar la plaga; pero al parecer esta es incontrolable, ya
que especialistas sanitarios afirman que se va a tener que quemar todos
los sembrados de café del municipio para poder sembrar plantas nuevas.

"Maisí es uno de los municipios más cafetaleros del país; en estos
momentos sus pobladores lamentan no poderse tomar la sabrosa tacita de
café mañanera", dijo finalmente el profesor Julián Antonio Monet Borrero.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Expert touts changes in Cuba trade

Posted on Fri, Sep. 15, 2006

Expert touts changes in Cuba trade
Herald Staff Writer

PALMETTO - Those who thought that the nation of Cuba has been existing
in an economic vacuum under Fidel Castro's thumb are sadly mistaken.

And anyone who thought that rumors of Castro's death would immediately
cause a shift in relations between Cuba and the United States would also
be wrong.

That was the message delivered by an expert in Cuban trade at the Port
Manatee Propeller Club on Thursday night at the Bradenton Yacht Club.

Kirby Jones, president of the U.S. Cuba Trade Association and Alamar
Associates, a company that facilitates trade between United States
businesses and Cuba, said the island country of 11 million people has
changed vastly in the last decade.

Those changes include "young Cubans walking around with New York Yankee
baseball caps and Nike shoes," Jones told the audience. "Hard currency
is now legal. Billboards advertise commercial products. Beach resorts by
the mile. Cell phones and direct-dialing telephone service to anywhere
in the world including the United States. CNN, Disney, ESPN on the hotel

While the United States has kept Cuba at arm's length during Castro's
reign, other countries are doing swift business there, Jones said.

"(There is) bottled water and ice cream with Switzerland, port
management with Spain, beer production with Canada, construction
companies with France," Jones said. "Tourism generates $2.7 billion a
year. It is the largest source of hard currency."

Jones said Cuba was a one-product country for centuries but now "sugar
is no longer even a factor in the generation of foreign currency."

And Castro isn't the singular entity some would make him out to be,
Jones said.

"Fidel Castro can go out at 10 o'clock in the morning and rail against
the evils of capitalism, and that is the real Fidel Castro," Jones said.
"He will turn around at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and sign another
joint venture. That is also the real Fidel Castro."

Jones, who once served as a political and business adviser to Sen.
Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, said the United States is making a
mistake by not getting in on the action.

But the United States is mistaken to think it can impose its political
terms on Cuba in terms of doing business with the country, Jones said.

"If you asked me to name a single person of any type of authority (in
Cuba), I could not think of a single person that would invite the United
States in to do anything," Jones said.

Currently, the United States is allowed to export agricultural and food
products to Cuba under 2000 legislation signed by former President Bill

"Cuba has signed contracts worth $2 billion with U.S. companies," Jones
said. "Twenty-three different ports have been used to ship goods to Cuba
around the country."

But for the United States to optimize its trade opportunities it has to
make a "fundamental decision" that its 45-year-old anti-trade policy
with Cuba has not worked.

"And then we have a different situation," Jones said. "But until that
fundamental decision is made, the U.S. is going to be a bystander and
the rest of the world is going to move in in spades, and has."

Mimos To Supply 30,000 PCs In Cuba

September 15, 2006 11:08 AM

Mimos To Supply 30,000 PCs In Cuba

From Mokhtar Hussein

HAVANA, Sept 15 (Bernama) -- Mimos Smart Computing Sdn Bhd has secured a
deal worth US$10 million to supply 30,000 personal computers to
Electronics Group of Cuba for the computerisation programme in this
Caribbean island nation.

Electronics Group is a government body tasked to provide computers for
schools, government offices and hospitals throughout Cuba.

Mimos Berhad president and CEO Abdul Wahab Abdullah signed the MoU for
the contract on behalf of the Mimos subsidiary while Electronics Group
head Ir Elio Pacheco signed for the Cuban corporation.

The ceremony was witnessed by Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin
Maidin and Cuba's Minister of Informatics and Communications Ramiro
Valdes Menendez at a hotel here.

Zainuddin then handed over 50 personal computers from Mimos to Menendez
who received them on behalf of Electronics Group.

According to a Cuban official, the country of 11 million population was
embarking on a massive computerisation programme, especially to equip
schools, hospitals and government offices in the rural areas.

Currently, Cuba imports computer hardware mainly from China.

Speaking at the ceremony, Zainuddin said for more than 30 years,
Malaysia and Cuba had formed a collaboration that had become an example
of a successful South-South cooperation.

He said Universiti Sains Malaysia was working with Cuba's Finlay
Institute to develop vaccines for tuberculosis and meningitis while
Cuban scientists were working with their Malaysian counterparts in
anti-cancer research.

Abdul Wahab said Exim Bank of Malaysia had agreed to provide credit
facility to enable Mimos Smart Computing to supply the computers.