Friday, April 16, 2010

Chile Presses Cuba Over Death of an Executiv

Chile Presses Cuba Over Death of an Executive

Chile's government on Wednesday asked Cuba for an "exhaustive
investigation" into the death of a Chilean executive in Cuba who worked
for Max Marambio, a former top Cuban spy whose business empire is under
investigation by Cuban authorities.

The death of Robert Baudrand, the top executive in Cuba of Alimentos Rio
Zaza, a food processing company jointly owned by Mr. Marambio, a Chilean
businessman, and the Cuban government, is the latest twist in a murky
saga surrounding Mr. Marambio, a Fidel Castro protegé who became one of
Cuba's top businessmen but who appears to have fallen from grace with
the Castro regime.
[CUBA] El Mercurio/GDA/Zuma Press

Chilean-born Max Marambio, a former spy, owns businesses in Cuba.

Cuba has been investigating Mr. Marambio's businesses and Mr. Baudrand,
though it was unclear what the probe concerned, Chile's foreign ministry
said. "We only know that they are doing this investigation but we, at
least, do not know of any specific charge that has been formulated
against the companies or against Mr. Baudrand, Chile's foreign minister,
Alfredo Moreno, told reporters in Santiago Wednesday. While Mr. Baudrand
hadn't been detained, "he had had to go to see the police a number of
times," Mr. Moreno said.

Chile said it had been informed last week that Mr. Baudrand was
prohibited from leaving the island, and called in the ranking Cuban
diplomat in Santiago for an explanation.

Mr. Baudrand was found dead in Havana on Tuesday, Chile's government
said. It was awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Mr. Marambio, who lives in Chile and frequently visits Cuba, said in a
statement Wednesday that news of the death of Mr. Baudrand had been
"received with pain and consternation."

Mr. Marambio and the Cuban government split the annual profits of about
$9 million from the Cuban food-processing operations of Alimentos Rio
Zaza, according to a former Cuban official living outside the island who
knows the company. Mr. Marambio's holding company International Network
Group owns 50% of Rio Zaza, his lawyer Eduardo Contreras said. Mr.
Marambio also is part owner with the Cuban government of Sol y Son,
which provides travel and aviation services, according to the former
Cuban official.

But now, Mr. Marambio, 63, appears to be at odds with the regime. Cuba's
government has retained $23 million of funds associated with Alimentos
Rio Zaza that should have gone to Mr. Marambio's holding company,
according to Mr. Contreras. Mr. Marambio declined to comment.

The Cuban government didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

Some Cuba analysts say a probe of Mr. Marambio's businesses could be
part of a broader corruption scandal unfolding on the island. Others say
he is a casualty of the rising influence of Raúl Castro, the ailing
Fidel's younger brother, who many say doesn't get along with Mr.
Marambio. Yet another view is that the Cuban government is angry at Mr.
Marambio for his backing of a maverick candidate in Chile's recent
presidential elections that divided the leftist vote and cost the ruling
leftist coalition the presidency.

Mr. Marambio has been a longtime darling of the Cuban regime. As a
student leader in Chile, he went to Cuba in the mid 1960s and received
guerrilla training. Under Cuban tutelage, he returned to Chile to head
President Salvador Allende's personal guard.

Following the 1973 military coup in which Mr. Allende died, Mr. Marambio
made his way back to Cuba, where he rose to lieutenant colonel in the
Interior Ministry's elite Special Troops.

After serving in many clandestine missions, Mr. Marambio became one of
the top decision makers in Cuba's largest company, Cimex, an
import-export company run by the Interior Ministry.

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