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Latin America

Cuba to compensate Spanish firms that stayed loyal in “difficult years”

Havana makes pledge to Spain’s top trade official as he leads investors’ delegation

The Cuban government has told Spain that it plans to pay compensation to Spanish companies that continued doing business with the island “in the difficult years,” in spite of the US trade embargo against Havana.

The pledge was made to Jaime García-Legaz, Spain’s secretary of state for trade, who this week has been leading a delegation of Spanish business people representing 43 companies to Cuba in search of investment opportunities.

The Economy Ministry approved new financial incentives for people who want to invest in Cuba

Although he did not mention the names of the companies penalized because of the US embargo – the Meliá hotel chain was one of them – García-Legaz said some of the firms lost “a considerable amount” by continuing to operate in Cuba knowing they could be sanctioned.

“Top government officials have underscored something very important, which is that they are not going to forget the companies that were working here during the difficult times,” he said during a farewell reception at the Spanish Embassy in Havana. “I think that says a lot on their behalf.”

Buoyed by the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and with hopes that the more than 50-year-old trade embargo will be lifted, some Spanish chains are looking to open new four- and five-star hotels on the Caribbean island and modernize their existing facilities.

A massive influx of American tourists is expected in the coming months when Washington starts lifting more restrictions on the decades-old Cuba travel ban it imposed on US citizens. But the Cuban government is unlikely to have enough hotel rooms to accommodate all these new visitors.

Spain’s Economy Ministry approved new financial incentives for people who have wanted to invest in Cuba but lacked the necessary funds, García-Legaz explained. He described his delegation’s visit as “very productive,” and said the final results would be ironed out in the coming weeks or months. Cuba and Spain also agreed to hold periodic meetings

Along with the Economy Ministry’s new incentives, the Bank of Spain has also lifted restrictions on lenders who finance Spanish investments in Cuba.

Cuba reportedly owes the CESCE (Spanish Company for Insured Credit for Export) around €2.3 billion, according to Spanish government sources. CESCE has resumed short-term coverage for Spanish businesses in Cuba after it stopped covering investors in 2000 because of the size of the debt.

García-Legaz said the final figures over Cuba’s debts with Spain and other nations would be negotiated through the Paris Club. Both delegations will have two weeks to come up with their own numbers.

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