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Posted October 02, 2006 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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By Marc Frank | Reuters

Cuba has fired the heads of two of the country’s most influential companies in a bid to bring the computing and telecommunications enterprises back under firm state control amid a national anti-corruption drive, industry sources said on Monday.

Information Technology and Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes, 74, a former revolutionary hero, took over the sensitive sector that controls communist Cuba’s communications, computing, Internet and software development late last month.

His was acting president Raul Castro’s sole ministerial appointment since he took over temporarily from his brother Fidel Castro on July 31 after the latter underwent intestinal surgery.

The shake-up at the companies did not appear to be aimed at opening up the sector to foreign capital or to information and entertainment from outside the country, said the foreign and local sources, all of whom wished to remain anonymous.

They said Valdes was unhappy with the independence shown by some company directors and their inability to rein in subordinates despite an ongoing drive to increase state control over the economy, improve efficiency and fight corruption.

Cuban President Fidel Castro declared war on corruption a year ago, warning it could undo his 1959 revolution. Together with his brother Raul, Castro mobilized youth and Communist Party stalwarts to root out corrupt practices within the state bureaucracy, leading to widespread sackings in recent months.

Valdes fired the president of Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA (Etecsa), Jose Antonio Fernandez, and the vice minister for information, Nelson Ferrer, for failing to control the fixed-line and mobile services monopoly, the sources said.

Etecsa, with revenues of more than $400 million in 2005 and in which Telecom Italia has a 27 percent interest, is one of the most powerful and visible companies in the country.

Valdez also fired the president of the powerful state-run Copextel corporation which imports, assembles and distributes advanced communications, computing and other technology, the sources said.

Copextel, with annual revenues of more than $200 million, has been caught up in recent corruption scandals involving kickbacks from foreign companies.

Etecsa’s new president, Maimir Mesa Ramos, and Copextel’s new boss, Antonio Orta Rodriguez, were both promoted from within the ranks.

International studies have found that Cuba occupies last place in Latin America for both mobile phone and Internet penetration, and is fifth from last in terms of its number of fixed telephone lines.

The government blames the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo for its poor communications infrastructure.

But Cuba’s 11 million people cannot buy a computer or subscribe to the Internet without a government permit, satellite television is prohibited, and mobile phones are available only for hard currency.

(Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle)

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on October 02, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “The government blames the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo for its poor communications infrastructure.”


    C’mon Raul, can we give it a break? These companies could easily provide Cuba with all the cellphones and network coverage that Cuba would ever need.

    The Embargo has nothing to do with this one.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on October 03, 2006 by a Canadian

    The Cuban government is scared of internet because it is the only way to find the real news about Cuba ( ex: Raul’s deals in Columbia ) and this is how the Cubanos can find the necessary files to be able to watch pirated satellite TV in Cuba. Strangely enough, even some officials from the government are renting the videos made from pirated satellite TV .
      Most of the optical network infrastructure is in place but it is not in used yet and nobody knows why. Trying to get a telephone line in Cuba is impossible in many regions. Even in Alamar which is very close to the capital, peoples can not have a new phone line connected. Many of them do not even have running water anyway. Cuba is where it cost the most to phone to ,from another country, to prevent peoples from talking too much I guess . Cubanos are so used to corruption, it is now a way of life. Everyone steal from the government.  Luckily they have this embargo to blame for everything..  Face it Fidel , after 50 years of your ways of doing things,  you’re still at square one and worst.  The only 2 good things in Cuba are the free hospitals and school, everything else is totally in shamble. The Cuban economy is based on begging other countries for money. Luckily they always find some countries that can give them money to survive. Cuba has an artificial economy and the country look like Fidel himself, tired and half dead !  Fidel , face it , 2/3 of your countrymen are very tired your ways of doing things..  if it wouldn’t be for the CDR VOP ( Vigilancia y Orden Público ) this repression would not work as well..  Cuba is a nation of paranoid peoples and the way that the laws are made, everyone did something wrong.  Anyway, Cuba would need such massive investments to be able to survive, they will never be able to do it by themselves…  the revolution, as we know it, will die with Fidel.

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