In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 49

Monday, April 7, 2014
Note below "former" Castro regime official Arturo Lopez-Levy (Lopez-Callejas) never misses n opportunity to defend his family's business.

In this case, he's acting a judge, jury and executioner of imprisoned foreign businessmen in Cuba.  Yet, there has not been a shred of evidence presented against any of them, some have been imprisoned for years without even charges filed and any deliberations have been in secret.

Here are some first-hand accounts from some of Castro's closest foreign business partners: here, here and here.

Excerpt from The Tampa Tribune:

[M]any still see the risk of doing business with Cuba as too great because they say its government has proven it cannot be trusted.

A host of examples are cited by Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group promoting democracy in Cuba.

Cuba froze more than a billion dollars in foreign assets in 2009, imprisoned businessmen from Canada and England without due process, and has failed to pay a number of trade debts with other countries, Claver-Carone said.

This, coupled with the difficulty of working with the Cuban government, is why foreign ventures in Cuba have dropped from 400 in 2000 to 190 today, he said.

[Arturo] Lopez-Levy, the former Castro adviser, disagrees with that assessment. The businessmen were jailed for corruption and their crimes would have warranted similar reaction anywhere in the world, he said. Further, he said, Cuba has bilateral agreements in place with its trading partners and could have its international assets frozen if it makes unlawful seizures.

Savage said trust in the Cuban government should not be the issue keeping U.S. business from investing or trading there. Risk is always a part of business, especially internationally, he said.

Russia is an example.

U.S. businesses that invested in Russia are concerned the nation will freeze their assets in retaliation against economic sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of neighboring Crimea, said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based business organization advocating a rules-based world economy.

When some of those investments were made, Russia and the U.S. were on friendlier terms.

But for Claver-Carrone, it’s not just about business but about bringing democracy to an island ruled by what he calls an oppressive government. He said at some point dollars and cents need to take a back seat to decency.

Cubans, he said, receive an average wage of only about $20 a month.

“That’s like slave labor,” he said. “And because U.S. companies would have to hire through the government, they would be employing them at that wage. How is that OK?”

Cuba, he added, is desperate. Its patron the Soviet Union is long gone. It risks losing the $3.5 billion a year in oil supplied by Venezuela in return for the skilled workers it sends to Venezuela. And the economy is growing at a rate of just 2.7 percent a year when it needs a rate of 7 percent.

The new investment laws adopted last week are an effort to save the Castro brothers’ failing socialist government, Claver-Carone said.

“The problem is they are serial monopolists,” he said. “They have a very hard time letting go. They only relax laws when they need to and then when things turn around, they tighten control again.”