Friday, October 14, 2011

Chávez gives $1.5 billion to Cuba and ALBA

Posted on Thursday, 10.13.11

Chávez gives $1.5 billion to Cuba and ALBA

Documents detail the millions of dollars that Venezuela has used to
finance projects in Cuba and other allied countries.
By Antonio Maria Delgado

Venezuela spent more than $1.5 billion in three years to finance dozens
of projects in Cuba and other allied countries, including airport
expansions in Cuba and replacing light bulbs in Bolivia, although the
oil producer has amassed massive debt in the last few years to cover its
own commitments, according to a Venezuelan government document.

Eighty-eight percent of disbursements from January 2007 to May 2010
covered Cuban financial projects, said the document from the Economic
Social Development Bank of Venezuela (BANDES), which was obtained by El
Nuevo Herald.

The veracity of the document was confirmed by Julio Montoya, an
opposition member of Congress, who accused the Hugo Chávez
administration of putting the country deep in debt while simultaneously
financing ally projects.

"It is not possible for Venezuela to continue increasing its external
debt to the point of already surpassing $124 billion, while the
president continues to finance the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and
Bolivia," said Montoya, who represents The New Time Party.

"While Venezuela is going through serious problems with its
infrastructure and its communications systems are falling apart,
President Chávez is financing the repairs of Cuban airports and railroad
systems," he added.

According to the 58-page report, BANDES, through its Autonomous and
International Cooperation Fund or FICA granted "solidarity credits" for
more than $980 million to 100 Cuban companies participating in a "twin
enterprises" program.

The document does not identify the names of the companies nor its
activities, simply indicating that they operate within "five industrial
sectors" and the financing is part of strengthening the Bolivarian
Alternative for the Peoples of our America or ALBA.

Montoya expressed concern over the ease with which Chávez disposes of
Venezuelan resources as if they were his own, making disbursements of
millions without public knowledge.

"We have to learn about these things only when officials denounce them
[…]. It's totally confidential. He [Chávez] doesn't inform anybody in
this country about the manner in which he uses resources," he said.

The BANDES report shows the existence of disagreements among Cuban and
Venezuelan authorities about a disbursement of $150 million given to the
island to help it overcome damages from hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

The disbursement was ordered by Chávez in April as "special financing"
granted under emergency conditions by the government enterprise
Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., but when BANDES tried to register the
transaction as a loan, the authorities in Havana dismissed their request.

"After BANDES repeatedly requested Cuba's approval of the agreement in
July 2009, minister Rodrigo Malmierca of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign
Trade, said that the operation was not a loan but a non-refundable grant
in accordance with commitments made by the Commander President [Chávez],
to which Venezuelan minister Ali Rodríguez said that he had no knowledge
of such commitment and the he would make the pertinent consultations,"
the document said.

"So far, no such consultation has been made, and the operation remains
undocumented. This situation has been repeatedly reported to higher
authorities," it added.

Other Cuban projects financed by Venezuela involve numerous credits
disbursed by FICA to finance the railroad sector and other loans for
more than $45 million to finance Cuban international airports Juan G.
Gómez in Varadero-Matanzas, and José Martí in Havana.

Venezuela also granted various credits to help Cuban expand its
electrical grid, most of them in 2007.

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