Fidel in Chile

Fidel Castro in Chile


I’m late to this, but it’s a good time to look at Fidel Castro’s extraordinary 24-day visit to Chile in 1971, when Salvador Allende, a Socialist, was in office.  A couple of years ago, this blogger filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. government for documents on this visit, as it was something the Nixon administration watched rather closely.

Such documents can shed light not only on U.S. policy but on the events themselves, as witnesses tell diplomats things they do not tell journalists and academics.  How did Chilean and Cuban officials get along? What did the Chileans think of Castro’s extended visit?

But first, a brief recap. It was supposed to be a 10-day visit. Fidel arrived on November 10, 1971 and embarked upon an extensive tour, from the Atacama Desert to Tierra del Fuego, visiting copper mines, vineyards, gas and oil installations and meeting with laborers, trade unionists, students, fellow Marxists—and the military.  There are photographs of him alongside future dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who at the time was commander of the Santiago army garrison, so the two men must have engaged in some conversation.  And he gave Salvador Allende was an AK-47, with his name inscribed, which the Chilean leader would use to kill himself in the presidential palace during the brutal military coup on September 11, 1973.

Castro’s 10-day itinerary was extended to 24 days, creating a rather awkward situation for Chilean officials, none of whom wanted the job of telling Fidel to go home. Carlos Altamirano, who at the time was secretary general of the Chilean Socialist Party, said in an  interview that Allende had asked him to ask Castro to wrap up his visit, but Altamirano refused. It was not easy, he said, to say something like that “to a head of state of Fidel’s stature, ‘enough already, go.’ And I wasn’t the most appropriate person to say this to him.”

Back to my Freedom of Information Act request, which made the rounds of the U.S. State Department, the National Security Agency, Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. I got nothing from the State Department; the National Security Agency sent a letter in September of last year saying that my request had been reviewed and that the relevant material remains classified as TOP SECRET.

“The information is classified because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security,” the chief of the FOIA office wrote to me, then described the agency’s appeal process, which I then followed. Hopefully there’ll be more on this later.

In October of this year I received a polite letter from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) giving me a status update on my request. “Please by assured that our office is committed to processing your request as soon as possible as the DIA continues its efforts to eliminate the large backlog of FOIA requests.”  My request was #139 of 232 in the Awaiting Response Queue, and there was a telephone number if I had any questions.

But the biggest surprise was the relatively quick response from the Central Intelligence Agency, which sent me only lightly redacted weekly summaries from October 29 to December 4, 1971, a short daily presidential briefing plus an eight-page intelligence memorandum, “Castroism Clarified in Chile,” which had been downgraded from “secret” to “sensitive.” Here are some highlights:

The President’s Daily Brief said that Castro was apparently satisfied with his Chile trip and its impact on the rest of the hemisphere. The Cuban leader was “generally well-received by a curious public and frequently showed that he still retains the capability of capturing the acclaim of crowds.”  The length of his visit, however, “eventually bored many Chileans.”

The Weekly Summary dated 29 October 1971 is headed with the words, “Cuba Dusts Off Its International Image” and says that the Chile visit will be Castro’s first trip abroad since 1964. There was speculation that the Cuban leader might arrive in time to help Allende celebrate the anniversary of his electoral victory on 4 November (he didn’t) and that officials of both countries had refused to pinpoint the dates for the visit.

The Central Intelligence Bulletin dated 9 November 1971 said that Havana’s decision to publicize details of Castro’s arrival “probably stems from a desire to reap the greatest propaganda advantage from the outset of the visit, though the degree of real enthusiasm among Chileans for it remains uncertain.”  The length of the visit was not mentioned, the report says, and there is a redacted sentence, followed by the arrival of Castro’s advance party four days earlier.

The 12 November Weekly Summary mentions Castro’s arrival in Santiago and that aside from a few minor incidents, “his reception was warm and friendly and large crowds turned out to greet him.”  His four-member delegation, the report said, was “remarkably unspectacular and suggests the trip is not a business one.” The presence of the Havana army commander indicated that Cuba “realizes the importance of developing a “correct” professional relationship with Chilean military leaders.” One wonders whether the Cuban army commander had any contact with Pinochet.

The 19 November Weekly Summary said that Castro’s first week in Chile “reinforced early suspicions that the visit would be less a working trip than an attempt to improve Castro’s image” and that the Cuban leader had gone out of his way to be cordial and discreet in his public pronouncements, even going so far “as to moderate temporarily his attacks on the US.”  The report said that the Chilean media coverage of the visit had been generally factual.  The Chilean Socialist Party was praising Castro so effusively that “it reportedly provoked a complaint from President Salvador Allende that Socialist treatment of the visit emphasizes Castro’s stature at Allende’s expense.” There was a bomb explosion near the northern city of Antofagasta the day before Castro was due to arrive, blamed on “a small right-wing extremist group that has condemned Castro’s visit.” But overt opposition to Castro’s presence in Chile, the report said, “has been limited.”

The next CIA bulletin, dated 26 November 1971, said that the Castro tour “has been successfully demonstrating Cuba’s solidarity with Chile and improving his international image.”  Chilean Communist Party members were receiving him “cautiously,” and Castro “has been circumspect in his remarks, however, lest he be accused of meddling in Chilean domestic affairs” and that he was “even less bitter than usual about the US base at Guantanamo, saying only that Cuba “one day” would recover it without a shot being fired.”  He had spent relatively little time with Allende, other than a two-day cruise to Chile’s southernmost city, Punta Arenas.

The 2 December 1971 bulletin reports that a farewell rally in Santiago was scheduled for that evening and that Castro “probably believes that he has accomplished all his journey’s goals and now realizes that after three weeks his welcome is wearing thin.”

The last document, an intelligence memorandum on Castroism in Chile, is dated 27 December 1971 and reads like a summary of the earlier bulletins.  One of the more interesting passages:

“Castro has a lot going for him in this regard. His large physical appearance and his breezy informality contributes much to his charisma. To Chileans accustomed to the dour Allende, Fidel was quite a shock, pleasant to some, scandalous to others. Where the throngs could make a direct comparison of Castro and Allende, Castro’s proclivity to play basketball, kiss babies, don miners’ helmets, etc., captivated many. Moreover, his nonstop traveling and speaking must have left most Chileans gasping at the man’s stamina.” But the report also notes that Fidel also had to deal with antagonistic confrontations with students, especially from the Christian Democratic Party and that on occasion he lost his cool. These encounters with detractors and the failure to attract a large turnout at his farewell rally affected him and that he “was an unhappy militant when he left Chile.”



Anniversary of a massacre

Pope Francis, who recently visited Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, is scheduled to visit Cuba and the United States in September. Needless to say, it will be an interesting trip and much has been made of his role in helping the two countries improve relations. But here’s a look at an earlier Vatican gesture in Cuba, in wake of an incident in the Florida Straits which took place 21 years ago, with a transcript of an ABC broadcast on the case, and thanks to the Cuba Archive project ( ) for making it available.

ABC / Nightline on the July 13, 1994 Tugboat Massacre

January 20, 1998 (From Havana)


TED KOPPEL Three and a half years ago, in the summer of 1994, something terrible happened out there, seven or eight miles out at sea, off the northern coast of Cuba. It was an incident that went all but unnoticed in the US media. The Cuban-American community protested but they protest a lot and as I say, we in the mainstream media all but ignored it. The Vatican, however, did not.

A letter of condolence speaking in the name of the Pope was sent by the Vatican’s secretary of state to Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana, who passed it on to the survivors of the incident and to their families. And that created a ripple which caused a ground swell, the full impact of which is still building.

Liz Balmaseda is a columnist for “The Miami Herald” who specializes in Cuban affairs.

LIZ BALMASEDA What the letter from the Pope did was it really gave strength to the church in Cuba so the church, so that the archbishop could turn around and denounce this act.

TED KOPPEL (VO) What happened occurred at night at sea in the middle of July in 1994. The time is important because it wasn’t all that long ago, not, in other words, in the bad old days of mass arrests and widespread executions. Seventy two Cubans, men, women and children, slipped out of this harbor aboard a tug boat. They were bound for Florida. Their boat was followed out to sea by three Cuban fire boats. What happened next we learned from some of the survivors, two of whom ultimately made it to Miami, while the other two risked arrest by talking to us here in Havana.

SERGlO PERODIN (Miami) (through translators) This boat came directly for us, cut us off and attacked us without a word, without saying anything to us or telling us to stop.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators) They told us stay here and show them the children so that they don’t shoot at us. One boat comes up behind us and they started ramming the boat.

JANETTE HERNANDEZ (Miami) (through translators) As we were showing them the children, they started spraying strong bursts of water at really high pressure, right at us.

SERGlO PERODIN (through translators) With the pressure hoses, they blew apart our boat’s windows, its doors, they wrecked our radio and we knew then that their intention was to sink our boat.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators) Our tugboat started taking on water. We shouted to the crewmen on the boat, “Look at the children! You’re going to kill them!” And he said, “Let them die. Let them die.”

JANETTE HERNANDEZ (through translators) I remember the banging and the noises from inside as the boat was sinking. In the water, everything is louder. That is what I heard. And I still hear it at night in nightmares.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators) I don’t know how to swim but I said I can’t sink with this boat. I was holding onto a pipe and I had my son right in front of me and I held him and then I went down. I sank. When I made it to the surface again I found a body floating that I know was Rosa.

TED KOPPEL (VO) Maria and her son held onto the body of her friend. lt was the only thing keeping them from sinking again.

REYNALDO CARRAZANA (Havana) (through translators) At the moment the boat sank, the survival instinct is the strongest. At that moment, I just thought of saving myself.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators) There was a boat just in front of me and it’s showing its light on me and I said, “pull us up.” And it was the same crewmen. And I said pull us up, pull up the boat because he’s going to drown. And he said, “If you want to be rescued, wait for the Coast Guard boat.” And he turned the boat around.

SERGIO PERODIN (through translators) They started going around us in a circle fast creating a whirlpool that sucked the people down to get rid of everybody because they didn’t want to leave any witnesses to this tragedy.

REYNALDO CARRAZANA (through translators) I didn’t know how to swim. I just floated. It seems that the boat’s freezer was nearby and I hung onto it. And a number of people were there hanging onto it, too.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators)I tried to reach that group. When I get there I hold onto the board because they were holding onto a piece of wood. I tried to hold onto the piece of wood. It was the ice pot that had come off the tugboat. But there were many people hanging onto it and when I held onto it, it seems that my weight made the boat overturn and a lot of people fell on me. And it was then that I let go of my son and I tried to grab him again but I couldn’t. It was so fast, he just went and I couldn’t grab him.

SERGlO PERODIN (through translators) We saw in the distance a boat with a Greek flag that appeared to be what stopped them. lt looked like the boat was watching what they were doing, the murder they were committing. So they stopped and decided to pick us up.

JORGE GARCIA (Havana) (through translators) When I asked my daughter, “What about Juan Mario?” “Papa, he’s lost.” “And Joel?” “Papa, he’s lost.” And Ernesto? “Papa, he’s lost.” And then we knew that other members of the family were all lost, 14 in all.

JANETTE HERNANDEZ (through translators) Fidel is the only one who could have given the order to sink the boat. And soon after the boat sank, the captain of one of the fire boats was decorated as a hero.

TED KOPPEL (VO) Jorge Garcia lost his son. In this picture, you can see a chain around his son’s neck. Against all odds, it was brought back to the father.

JORGE GARCIA (through translators) This chain is a symbol for me. it preserves the sweat of my son. This chain was around his neck. lt was brought to me through the generosity of a survivor. I will keep it forever. My wife gave this chain to my son. lt has the image of the Pope. lt has double significance for me, the memory of my son and the image of the Pope, who very soon will come to Cuba. (Commercial Break)

ANNOUNCER ABC News Nightline continues. Once again reporting from Havana, Cuba, Ted Koppel.

TED KOPPEL The Castro government had dismissed the tugboat sinking as an accident and insisted that no one in the government could have played any role. But then the church cleared its throat.

LIZ BALMASEDA I think the letter that came from the Pope really showed that there was an important international ring to this incident, that somebody at least, somebody as important as the Pope knew what had happened.

TED KOPPEL (VO) The letter from the Vatican’s secretary of state read, in part, “It profoundly saddened the Holy Father to hear of the deplorable death of the families on a boat,” and then, “I ask that you extend to the families the Holy Father’s deepest sympathy and to express his concern and feelings of closeness.”

JANETTE HERNANDEZ (through translators) He sent us his condolences for what had happened and when I received it, I said to myself, well, at least people knew about what happened.

TED KOPPEL (VO) Janette Hernandez and her husband, who also survived the sinking of the tugboat, went to sea again, this time on a raft, and made it to Miami, where they have created a new life. Maria Garcia, who lost 14 members of her family, also lost her job. She says she is under constant surveillance and risked arrest by talking to us.

MARIA VICTORIA GARCIA (through translators) I will be happy if the Pope, among his many concerns, mentions the question about the tugboat. What has happened about the incident with the tugboat? What has been done? I would like the Pope to ask Fidel that question.

QUANA CARRAZANA (through translators) I see him as a messenger of God and since God always wants the best for human beings, he’s going to bring us that happiness we need, at least spiritually, so that little by little this comes to an end.

TED KOPPEL (VO) Quana Carrazana’s husband, daughter and granddaughter were among the dead. She lives with her son in poverty and says she is also harassed by state security.

QUANA CARRAZANA (through translators) The jails are full of political prisoners. As a result of this interview, I may be arrested. But I’m not afraid if they arrest me, because I live for my son. If they kill me, I don’t mind, because I’m already dead. If they actually kill me, I don’t mind.

REYNALDO CARRAZANA (through translators) He’s going to say mass. People are going to feel fine while he’s here and then things will go back to normal. People will go back to their daily grind, live their day to day difficult life, sweat and toil and everything will be the same.

TED KOPPEL (VO) Reynaldo, Quana’s son, had to leave school. He says he’s periodically picked up or threatened. He supports his mother by making furniture by hand. His mother is afraid that Fidel Castro will warmly greet the Pope.

QUANA CARRAZANA (through translators) I don’t want that moment to come. I would turn my face because it’s as if God were embracing the Devil. God cannot embrace the Devil ever. The Pope’s visit will help Fidel because it will look to the world as if Fidel has become more open. But for the Cuban people, nothing will change.

TED KOPPEL (VO) The men who survived were thrown into prison for several months. When they were released, Sergio Perodin made his way into exile in Miami.

SERGlO PERODIN (through translators) I have always been against those who travel to Cuba to attend one of the masses the Pope will say there. It has never occurred to me the idea of returning to Cuba as long as this dictatorship exists.

REYNALDO CARRAZANA (through translators) I’m planning to go. Let’s see if they let me. They can warn me. Here they can warn you. They see you around, they can simply arrest you and that’s it. They don’t tell you don’t go, but they say if you go, there might be consequences.

JORGE GARCIA (through translators) I’m planning to go see the Pope, go to the mass. Probably he will not know that I am there. I will just be one in the crowd. But I will go there because I have a debt of gratitude to the Pope that I want to pay.

TED KOPPEL I’ll be back with a closing thought in a moment.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL The Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, once mocked the power of the Pope with his famous rhetorical question how many divisions does the Pope command? Fidel Castro has a more subtle understanding of the Popes influence.

By welcoming John Paul to Havana tomorrow, Castro may believe that some of the Pope’s moral authority will rub off. But the newly revitalized Catholic Church of Cuba has already made it clear that the vicar of Christ will be here visiting the people of Cuba, not engaging in political dialogue with its leaders.

A simple letter of condolence from the Pope has already showed that it could make waves in this country. A Papal visit may yet stir up a storm.

That’s our report for tonight. I’m Ted Koppel in Havana. For all of us here at ABC News, good night.

Online in Cuba

The cost of an hour of internet access in Cuba costs about a third of the average Cuban’s monthly salary.  Will the cost go down with more access points? The 118 new internet access points recently opened in Cuba seem to be working, and a very good place to follow the country’s slow path to connectivity is the blog The Internet in Cuba, whose author has been covering the issue since the 1990s. He writes

Cuba was one of the leading pre-Internet networking nations in the Caribbean. The small community of Cuban networking technicians was like that of other nations at the time. They were smart, resourceful, and motivated. They believed, correctly, that the Internet was important — that it would have a profound impact on individuals, organizations and society. They were members of the international community of Internet pioneers.

For background on Cuba’s slow road to internet access, The Economist published this piece over two years ago:

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez recently visited the area in eastern Cuba where the undersea fiber optic cable from Venezuela joins the island:

And here’s a New York Times blog about a blogger, University of Havana journalism professor Elaine Diaz, who supports Fidel Castro but adopts a mildly critical view in some of her writing:

Aftermath of a summit

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with Cuba's Raul Castro in Santiago.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with Cuba’s Raul Castro in Santiago.

Here’s a video of Raul Castro’s speech at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union, held this past weekend in Santiago. The Cuban leader has just received the pro tempore presidency of CELAC and had a warm exchange with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, a conservative and business tycoon.  Castro’s tone makes it clear he’s no softer, gentler version of his brother Fidel. There are brief shots of Venezuela’s acting president Nicolas Maduro talking to someone while Castro is speaking, and of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega stifling either a yawn or a cough.

Toward the end of his prepared speech Castro looked up and began some improvised comments about drug trafficking in Latin America, insisting there was no such activity in Cuba—aside from marijuana plants some Cubans grow in pots on their balconies.

“When tourism began to increase—and last year we had almost 3 million foreign visitors—Cuba became a target for drug traffickers,” he said. Castro said he met with various government agencies to unleash a “blood and fire” battle against the drug trade, and that more than 250 foreigners were imprisoned in Cuba on drugs charges. He made a reference to Mexico’s narcotraficantes, then began reminiscing about the voyage of the Granma yacht carrying 82 Cuban revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.

Piñera had a private meeting with Castro to discuss the 1991 killing of a Chilean senator, Jaime Guzman, who had worked closely with the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and helped draft the regime’s 1980 constitution. Chilean investigators have linked five members of the now-disbanded Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodriguez, an armed leftwing group with close ties to Cuba, to Guzman’s murder and at least four of the five men are believed to reside in Cuba. According to Piñera, Castro promised to “study the background details and deliver his best cooperation.”  The story in El Nuevo Herald:

But Cuba’s foreign minister offered a different version of the meeting, telling reporters in Santiago that “no document or specific information was delivered or received” and that Piñera had only offered to approach Cuban authorities.

“The Cuban government is awaiting this information which will be considered by judicial authorities in our country,” said Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. He said the Castro-Piñera meeting was “fascinating, because a lot of time was spent talking about the insurrectional stage of the Cuban revolution” and that the Chileans showed “a surprising knowledge” of this history.

And here is some background on the Guzman killing, courtesy of the U.S. State Department Electronic Reading Room.

  1. A declassified cable from the U. S. Embassy in Santiago describes the scene at Guzman’s funeral—which was attended by both the American and Soviet ambassadors:
  2. A declassified Central Intelligence report describes how the Guzman assassination is fueling political tension just as Chile’s new civilian government completed an inquiry into human rights abuses under Pinochet:
  3. Another, almost completely redacted CIA  report on the case is three pages long and begins with the words, “In mid-April 1991” and then is blacked out until the last page, with a text which reads, [          ] has information indicating that a cell of the dissident faction of the FPMR (FPR/DI, which is infiltrated by former national intelligence director General Manuel Contreras Sepulveda) carried out the April assassination of rightist Senator Jaime Guzman.  [           ]  angrily told [           ] this was disinformation.”:

The Financial Times ran an editorial entitled “Silly in Chile”on the CELAC-EU summit:

And Chilean political scientist Patricio Navia has this column , “An unnoticed absence,” on the summit and U.S. Latin American policy in the Buenos Aires Herald:

Apples in Cuba

In Habana Vieja, the historic center of the Cuban capital, American apples are on sale for half a convertible peso each.  This blogger bought one from a street vendor, inquiring where the apples came from.  The United States, she told me. What about the trade embargo (el bloqueo), I asked.

“Yes, el bloqueo exists, but I don’t know how these come into the country,” she said.

Here’s a link to a BBC report on the state of Virginia’s apple exports to Cuba:  One of the apple growers interviewed describes his visit to Cuba, meeting Fidel Castro and describing him as “the smartest politician I’ve ever seen.”

Of course, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, first enacted in 1960, is not exactly watertight.  In 1999 President Bill Clinton simultaneously tightened and loosened the embargo, prohibiting the foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba while allowing agricultural and medical products to be sold on a cash-up-front, no credit basis.  In addition to apples, here are some more American products I saw on sale in Cuba:

  1. Coca-Cola (produced by the company’s Mexican subsidiary).
  2. Jack Daniels whiskey
  3. Head and Shoulders shampoo
  4. Colgate toothpaste (produced in China).

Here’s a link to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which advises American exporters on trading with Cuba:

Hanukkah in Havana

American contractor Alan Gross, who has spent three years in a Cuban military prison, was visited this week by two leaders of Cuba’s Jewish community on Monday, December 17, the day after the eight-day festival ended.

“We spent a little more than an hour with him,” Jewish Community Foundation president Adela Dworin told the Spanish news agency EFE. “We lit the eight candles as tradition indicates, and we brought him latkes (potato pancakes), the main dish of the festival and other sweets.”

This blogger visited Havana’s Beth Shalom synagogue last month, transported by a cab driver who offered, without being asked, a suspicious amount of information about Fidel Castro’s health.  At the temple a caretaker happily showed his visitors the building, saying there was no anti-Semitism in Cuba and pointing out the photograph of film director Steven Spielberg’s visit in 2002:

Photo of Steven 'Spielberg

And here is a link to a NY Times story on Cuba’s Jewish community:


The Strange Career of Max Marambio

Once a revolutionary, then a businessman, now wanted by Cuban authorities

“The revolutionaries of my generation had taken on death as something without great transcendence. This certainty gave us the strength to overcome our fears.”

So begins Las Armas de Ayer, or in English, Yesterday’s Weapons, the autobiography of Max Marambio, a Chilean guerrilla-turned-businessman whom a Cuban court this week sentenced in absentia to 20 years imprisonment for fraud, bribery and “falsification of banking or commercial documents, all of a continuing nature.”  Marambio had been a close friend of Fidel Castro, a bodyguard to socialist president Salvador Allende and co-owner of Rio Zaza, a food company he ran with the Cuban government since the early 1990s.  The court also sentenced a former Cuban food industry minister to 15 years for “bribery and acts detrimental to economic activity.”

In 1966 a 17-year old Marambio accompanied his father, Allende and other Chilean socialists on a trip to Cuba, where he was dazzled by Fidel Castro. The Cuban leader, he wrote, “was far from the Cuban stereotype” and appeared to be “a solemn man, with good manners, evoking the image of a Spanish gentleman who has had the best education.”  He underwent guerrilla training in Cuba, returned to Chile and joined a rather bumbling attempt at armed insurrection, became one of Allende’s paramilitary bodyguards and fled into exile after the 1973 military coup.

Marambio did not let his political background stand in the way of business opportunities, and over the years he built up sizeable holdings in real estate and construction. Rio Zaza was one of the first joint ventures the Cuban government set up with foreign companies, producing packaged juice and milk. He kept a large house in Havana where Fidel Castro was a frequent guest and in Santiago directed the 2009 presidential campaign of Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a filmmaker and son of a dead Chilean guerrilla.

About that time Cuban authorities began imposing stricter controls on the amount of money foreign businesses could withdraw from local banks. According to some accounts, Marambio had an angry confrontation with Cuban Central Bank officials, who responded by launching an investigation. With Raul Castro now in his brother’s place, Marambio had no strings to pull. In February of last year Cuban authorities closed two plants operated by Rio Zaza and froze $23 million in assets. Two months later a Chilean who had been the company’s manager and was interrogated three times during the investigation was found dead in his apartment; his body was flown to Chile and cremated without a complete autopsy. Cuban officials ordered Marambio, who had fled the island, to return to Havana by August 23 and when he refused, issued an international arrest warrant.

Marambio has filed an appeal with an international business tribunal in Paris and called the ruling “political persecution,” and said there was no legal basis for the Cuban authorities’ case against him. “I was never a saint of Raul Castro’s devotion, nor of his followers and the people around him,” he told Chile’s Radio Bio Bio. He suggested the younger Castro resented his youthful activities with the Cuban military, and was now carrying out a longstanding grudge against him.

The Cuban media have offered few details of the case, with Granma publishing the official court ruling and the English-language Havana Times commenting that Rio Zaza had enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the packaged fruit juice market and that the country has been hit by several high level corruption scandals in recent years. Blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote an interesting piece several months ago on the effect Rio Zaza’s closing has had on Cuban consumers.