Monday, August 20, 2012

Venezuelan state governor: Cuba inefficient at managing ports, food distribution

Posted on Sunday, 08.19.12

Venezuelan state governor: Cuba inefficient at managing ports, food

A Venezuelan state governor says that Cuba's central role in overseeing
the Venezuelan food distribution and ports is contributing to shortages.

Hugo Chávez's government has granted Cuba key concessions in Venezuela's
food distribution system by making the island its purchasing agent
abroad as well as its seaport manager — activities that represent a
fabulous business for the Castro brothers while generating more scarcity
and huge losses for Venezuela.

The governor of the state of Carabobo, Henrique Salas Feo, said that a
great part of the problems of scarcity and cost of living increases in
Venezuela could be attributed to the corruption of people close to its
government and Cuba's inefficiency managing the facilities at Puerto

"Puerto Cabello is the entry gate to Venezuela; it handles 80 percent of
everything that enters or leaves the country, but since the Cubans took
over, things are getting worse by the day, which is affecting
Venezuelans' daily life," Salas said in a telephone interview with El
Nuevo Herald.

"The economic reality of all Venezuelans depends on the good management
of the port, but imported goods are incurring in enormous delays that
create scarcity and increase costs that end up transferred to the
consumer," he said.

According to the governor's estimates, poor port management and
corruption are provoking a 30-day delay in containers entering the
country, which contrasts with the 72 hours it took before Cubans took

The port terminal is of particular importance due to the severe
deterioration of the Venezuelan productivity as a result of government
policies, which has increased the dependence on imports, he said.

The situation created by expropriations, the strict currency exchange
control and the system that controls pricing is leading Venezuela to go
abroad to acquire basic consumer products.

The Chávez administration has also granted concessions to Cuban
enterprises to acquire products abroad, a situation that lends itself to

"[The Cubans] control everything that comes in and goes out. We are
importing meat from Nicaragua. Yet often that container does not come
from Nicaragua and it is subject to a triangulation whereby a Cuban food
enterprise buys the meat at a certain price and later sells it to
Venezuela at a higher price," Salas said.

The governor said there are no practical reasons for Venezuela to grant
Cuba the business of purchasing its food abroad. "They are bleeding the
country dry," he said.

Puerto Cabello was transferred to Cuban hands in 2009 after Chávez took
away the management of the port facilities from the regional government
to hand it to Puertos del Alba, a joint company that is 51 percent owned
by Venezuela and 49 percent by the Castro regime.

Salas said the measure was taken after Carabobo's government went to the
opposition and that the decision had little to do with centralizing port
operations, as the government argued.

The reason was to "protect the huge agreements that the previous
governor of Carabobo," affiliated with the United Socialist Party of
Venezuela, had established, he said.

Yet all that the transfer of management accomplished was increasing
corruption inside the port, besides creating new business opportunities
for Raúl Castro's government.

The result is that now containers take longer to enter the country,
partly due to the inept Cuban management and also due to internal

"Any port is composed by a number of so-called 'patios' that were given
to friends of ministers, admirals and generals," he said.

The owners of these patios, which are large spaces to station
containers, charge the Venezuelan government a significant amount of
money for each day a container is delayed getting out of these areas,
the governor said.

The governor's statement matches a report issued by the private
intelligence firm Stratfor, released by WikiLeaks, describing how the
systematic destruction of Venezuelan productivity, replacing it with a
model based on the import of goods, generates a corruption spiral that
worsens the scarcity problems in order to obtain bigger contracts.

The report revealed that government officials involved in food imports
hoard the goods to justify new transactions, and it partially attributed
the huge losses from rotten food at Venezuelan ports to corrupt officials.

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