Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cuba drops in corruption index

Posted on Thursday, 12.05.13

Cuba drops in corruption index

Cuba slipped five places on an international corruption ranking,
reinforcing the perception that bribery is a growing problem in a
country caught between its Soviet-styled economy and its push toward
market reforms.

The Germany-based Transparency International's Corruption Perception
Index (CPI) for 2013 ranked Cuba in 63rd place among 177 countries and
territories — tied with Ghana and Saudi Arabia — and five spots lower
than in the previous year.

Uruguay held the top spot in Latin Americanat 19th place, followed by
Chile in 22nd, Puerto Rico in 33rd and Costa Rica in 49th. Following
Cuba were all other Latin American nations, with Mexico in 106th and
Venezuela in 160th — the region's worst and tied with Eritrea and Cambodia.

The CPI, published annually since 1995, uses at least four and up to 10
independent surveys to assign a score to each country and territory from
one to 100. Denmark and New Zealand tied for first, the United States
tied in 19th and Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea tied for last.

The drop in Cuba's ranking was "so small that it's hard even to guess
what caused it, or whether the move was due to changes in perceptions of
other countries or of Cuba," said Phil Peters, head of the Cuba Research
Center in Alexandria, Va., and an advocate of improved U.S. relations
with the island.

Corruption has long been a problem in Cuba, however, with workers
pilfering from state stockpiles in order to make up for their low
salaries, and foreign companies paying bribes to officials who handle
multi-million dollar deals but earn as little as $30-$40 a month.

A 2006 report by U.S. diplomats in Havana alleged Cuba was "rife with
corrupt practices" up to Fidel Castro's "closest advisors." It quoted a
Swiss businessman as saying that in Cuba, "just like everywhere in the
world, a million-dollar contract gets you $100,000 in the bank."

But the government of Raúl Castro launched a crackdown after he
succeeded ailing brother Fidel in 2008, branding corruption as "one of
the principal enemies of the revolution" and saying that it was
undermining his push for market economic reforms.

Castro created the post of comptroller general to audit government
offices and state-run enterprises, and appointed his son Alejandro, an
Interior Ministry officer who also serves as his top security advisor,
to supervise and enforce the anti-corruption campaign.

Some of the bigger scandals unearthed involved Cuba's
telecommunications, aviation, nickel, cigar and construction industries,
and reportedly led to the discreet arrests or dismissals of scores of
government officials.

Also caught in the roundups were two foreigners who administered Coral
Capital Group, a British firm that had plans to invest $1 billion on the
island. They were jailed for two years, tried and sentenced to time served.

Canadian Sarkis Yacoubian was sentenced to nine years in prison in June
for a corruption scheme that involved several Cuban officials. His
cousin and business partner, Krikor Bayassalian, a Lebanese citizen, was
sentenced to four years.

Still awaiting trial are another Canadian, Cy Tokmakjian, arrested in
2011, and Nessim Abadi, a Panamanian businessman in his 70s who was
arrested in August 2012. Both men sold foreign made machinery and other
goods to the Cuban government.

Cuba's government-controlled news media has not reported on the
corruption cases involving foreign businessmen.

Source: "Cuba drops in corruption index - Cuba -" -

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