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Posted December 16, 2003 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s Tourism Ministry said Monday it had removed the president and three executives of its largest state-run tourism corporation last month for slack management practices, not corruption.

The president of Cubanacan, Juan Jose Vega, was fired late last month, sparking reports that millions of dollars were missing from the company which handles 40 percent of visitors to the Communist-run country.

“They at no time participated in embezzlement or theft, but committed grave management errors related to a lack of control, discipline and other violations,” the Tourism Ministry said in note carried by the local media, stating that in addition to Vega, two division heads and a lesser executive were fired.

“It is completely false that funds have been embezzled or stolen from the Cubanacan group,” the ministry said, adding the company was operating normally under the minister’s direction and tourism was up 14 percent over 2002.

The ministry stressed the shake-up had not hurt the tourism industry, which is the Caribbean island’s most important source of foreign exchange.

Some 1.9 million tourists were expected to have spent more than $2 billion in Cuba this year.

Cubanacan employs 30,000 Cubans and owns 51 hotels across the island, as well as restaurants, tourist shops, taxi and car rentals services, two marinas and 10 diving centers.

With revenues of $331 million and profits of more than $100 million last year, Cubanacan operates hotels with 13,000 rooms, one third of Cuba’s total.

Cubanacan has a majority of Cuba’s joint ventures with foreign companies, particularly with Spain’s Sol Melia chain, which manages 23 hotels on the Caribbean island. Cubanacan also has a stake in three hotels outside Cuba and is building a hotel in Shanghai, China.

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