All in the week’s news,
First, the tax havens:
The Miami Herald reports,
Panama Papers show Cuba used offshore firms to thwart embargo
At least 25 companies in tax havens had Cuban links
A brother of Raul Castro’s son-in-law appears in the leaked documents
Cuba was at the heart of a deal to export Russian oil that involves a Lebanese company
But wait, there’s more! Russia-Lebanon-Havana connection
One of the more intriguing schemes mentioned in the documents puts Cuba at the heart of a deal to sell Russian oil to Latin America through a company registered in Panama by the Bassatne family. The family controls BB Energy, a conglomerate founded in Lebanon in 1937 that buys and sells 16 million metric tons of crude and derivatives each year. One Bloomberg report showed BB Energy had $10 billion in revenues in 2012.
Read the whole thing.
Rep. Joe Pitts writes about Russian ports and NATO:
. . . Russia’s best option was, and has been, to borrow from other countries and use their warm water ports to extend its global reach.
Cuba is one of the most obvious examples. Even though it’s not on the Mediterranean, it demonstrates how enlarged Russia’s scope is with the gain of Cuba’s friendly warm water ports. Russian vessels have utilized Cuba’s installations, along with Nicaragua and Venezuela’s, to reach west across the North Atlantic. As a result, Russia announced in 2014 that it would be reopening an “eavesdropping base” 150 miles away from U.S. soil: In Cuba. Through the access to these strategic ports, Russia’s reach handily extended across the Atlantic.
I had posted about the port.
How Illegal Trade Persists Between Cuba and North Korea
Despite the immense international controversy resulting from Cuba’s 2013 arms sales to North Korea, sporadic trade linkages between the two countries have continued largely unhindered. In January 2016, Cuba and North Korea developed a barter trade system, which officially involved transactions of sugar and railway equipment.
According to Curtis Melvin, an expert at the Washington D.C.-based U.S. Korea Institute, barter trade is an effective way for Cuba and North Korea to evade international sanctions without depleting their hard currency reserves. Cuba’s use of sugar as a medium of bilateral trade has close parallels with Myanmar’s historical use of rice in exchange for North Korean military technology assistance. This form of trade has been vital for the North Korean regime’s survival in wake of the Soviet collapse and more inconsistent patronage from China.
While the Obama administration has removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and taken a big stride toward lifting the Kennedy-era embargo on Cuba, Havana’s continued cooperation with Pyongyang is an alarming blow to the normalization process.