Cuba Court Sentences Ex-minister & Chilean Crony

A Rio Zaza juice sculpture by Victor Santos Viera from the 2009 Havana Biennial Art Show. Photo: Caridad

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, May 6 — Alejandro Francisco Roca, a former food industry minister, was handed down a 15-year prison sentence this week for corruption charges involving the Chilean-Cuban joint venture company Rio Zaza.

The Chilean investor, Max Marambio, a long-time crony of ex-President Fidel Castro, was also tried in his absence and sentenced to 20-years for bribery and fraud.

The defendants have ten days to make an appeal.

No details were made public as to how many millions of dollars are involved in the case.  Cuba has requested that Chile extradite Marambio to the island.

The Chilean general manager of Rio Zaza, Roberto Baudrand, who worked for Marambio, was found dead in his apartment on April 13, 2010, in Havana.  For nearly two decades Rio Zaza had a virtual monopoly on selling packaged fruit juices within Cuba.

Cuba has been hit by numerous high level corruption scandals in recent years, damaging confidence in the leadership’s ability to appoint honest trustworthy people to key posts.

As President Raul Castro attempts to tackle the corruption issue, the country is also currently applying economic reforms that will allow for more small scale private businesses and self-employment in some fields, as well as cut back on entitlement programs.

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