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12/04/13 - Anchorage Daily News - Cuba drops to 63rd on world corruption list

MIAMI - MIAMI_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,
or 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 America at 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
for 19th. 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 multimillion-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 advisers." 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 Raul 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 adviser, 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 company 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.



Original Source / Fuente Original:
http://www.adn.com/2013/12/03/3212618/cuba-drops-to-63rd-on-world-corruption.html


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