Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cuba, a Tax Haven for the Untouchables

Cuba, a Tax Haven for the Untouchables / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 6 June 2016 — In recent weeks, the world has taken
a great interest in the scandalous revelations of the Panama Papers.
Millions of documents have revealed the shady side of celebrities,
politicians and leaders in every region and of all political colours.
And, of course, a government as chameleon-like as Cuba's was not going
to be an amazing exception, the missing condiment in this soup.

The very serious revelation that the Castros' government and its
Venezuelan counterpart contracted the services of a German business, by
way of the Mossack Fonseca law firm — trying in that way to not appear
tied in with such unsavoury accomplices — to arrange the production of
the current version of the Venezuelan passport, and the subsequent
control over the distribution of this document since then by Havana, has
been the most embarrassing thing that has been revealed by these
documents about the island's government.

Although many people are waiting avidly for new revelations which
incriminate high Cuban officials, this writer would not be surprised,
nevertheless, if absolutely nothing of the sort happens. This certainty
derives from a total conviction in a long-established truth, which is
the most obvious and elemental of all: none of the Castros has ever
needed to deposit his fortune or cover up his activities in tax havens,
simply because they have never needed to avoid any kind of audit. They
alone are their only auditors, judges and participants in their shady
activities, in which nobody else can stick their fingers in — period.
Or, in fewer words, both dictators have always considered Cuba to be
their exclusive private tax haven.

In order to back up this accusation, let's look at the most widely-held
definition of what is a tax haven. Normally it is considered to be any
territory or country which complies basically with the following conditions:

If the jurisdiction levies no taxes, if it permits non-residents to
benefit from tax breaks, even when they in fact carry out no activities
in the country.

If there is no transparency, if there are strictly private bank
accounts, and the personal details of owners and company shareholders do
not appear in public records, or indeed they permit formal
representatives, called nominees, to be employed.

If the laws or administrative practices do not permit interchange of
information with other countries or international organisations for
fiscal purposes in relation to taxpayers benefitting from exceptionally
low tax rates.

In order to understand the present analysis, we have to start off from
the incontrovertible premise that the same geographical space is
cohabited by two antagonistic Cubas. One of them is the Cuba of the
dictators and the regime's historic "sacred cows," and a whole entourage
of opportunists, high level executives, managers of important companies,
all of whom are absolutely tied in with the government, and the highest
level officials of the Ministry of the Interior and the armed forces, as
well as Cuban ambassadors overseas. Their respective families and lovers
also belong to this elite, along with good friends, and the cream of
this Cuban neo-bourgeoisie, the emerging upper middle class, and also —
and why not? — all those businessmen and foreign diplomats resident in
the island.

A completely different totally opposed reality, is the life lived by the
ordinary Cuban. 90% of us Cubans live in this lower class Cuba, and this
is where I live, with my family and all my friends, just like the
overwhelming majority of Cuban professionals and everyone who works for
the state. It is the Cuba of miserable salaries and the everyday pursuit
of your daily bread. It is this Cuba, which is poor and hopeless, that
wave after wave of Cuban young people are fleeing.

So we have the upper class Cuba convinced that it has no obligation to
account for anything to lower class Cuba. If we consider these
realities, only apparently overlapping, as two separate countries, which
in practice is what they are, we are then able to understand why it is
not hyperbole or gratuitous to say that the Castros have for more than
50 years enjoyed the advantages of having their own tax haven.

But, finally, why should we consider Cuba to be a tax haven? Very
simply, we are talking about a country without the most basic legal or
civic mechanisms to indict the most corrupt, because it is precisely
those people who call the shots. It is a country without division of
powers, which guarantees the total impunity of those people.

There has never existed in post-revolutionary Cuba either an official
press which denounces anything, or a police authority which investigates
anything, or a public prosecutor which accuses any one of the most
corrupt people in the government, because — get this — you cannot take
at face value the the periodic purges of disgraced officials, because in
these cases the order always comes from the current dictator's
executive, and never from the judicial system which should naturally
deal with it. There are far more than enough examples of investigations
which have faded away into nothing when they have been countermanded
from above, which no-one dares to question.

When you check it out, there are all the elements here of the
above-mentioned definition. We have a caste which doesn't pay any taxes
on their informal or illegal businesses, or if they do pay them, they
are just a token in relation to the real level of their income.

We have a government which has always practised the most absolute and
systemic secrecy in relation to the private lives and real incomes of
its most important chiefs, and also a rigid censorship over whatever may
be produced to evidence their over-the-top schemes, managed by
unscrupulous front men, referred to above as nominees. And finally we
have a body of law, for the most part in violation of the most important
human rights, but made to measure for the aspirations of the elite to
maintain their power and influence.

Cuba is still today a tax haven for the untouchables, with all
institutions in submission to this privileged class which lives like
kings on the Olympic heights, disconnected from the reality of the
people who live beneath them in poverty and want.

In fact, if you asked a thief or corporate tight-wad who want to fill
their bank accounts on the margins of any tax responsibility, what would
be the country of their dreams, they would definitely say that that
country would have a government which didn't waste its time on listening
to useless pleas from its people, which was hard-line and keeping a grip
on its power — it would be ideal if, by the way, it was the only one
legally recognised in the constitution — and which would guarantee that
it would leave me in peace to get on with my business dealings, sorting
out unionists and trouble makers. That is to say, a government keen on
the most profitable exploitation of whatever you can come up with.

Our hypothetical crook would say that in that fantasy world, I would
have a monopoly of all markets, which would practically make me a God
who could order, to my heart's content, the fate of millions of
consumers who would have no choice apart from what I offer, which would
allow me to speculate by selling dear whatever cheapo thing I imported.

I would love to carry out my activities, our respondent would continue,
among serious, upright people and businessmen who understand that the
best business is the one which generates the most profit in the shortest
time possible, no matter who may be hurt.

I would like a country to have no division of powers, in which every
judge, right up to the Supreme Court, was subordinated to a powerful
man, an arch-calculator, through whom everything flows, as smooth as
silk, and protected from indiscreet gazes.

Just think, dear reader, whether that elite country, the above-mentioned
Cuba, with its life-long privileged class, where greed and opportunism
reigns, the Cuba of despotic generals and criminals who go unpunished,
should not be considered to be a genuine and very exclusive tax haven.
If such a country could not be classified as such, then a guanábana is
not a spiky green fruit. Needless to say, whatever similarity to real
life here would not be a coincidence. Draw your own conclusions

Translated by GH

Source: Cuba, a Tax Haven for the Untouchables / Jeovany Jimenez Vega –
Translating Cuba -

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