HAVANA TIMES – Radio Progreso Alternativa (RPA)/Progreso Semanal President Raúl Castro of Cuba today signed the decree-law that created the island’s first Special Zone of Development, in Mariel (ZEDM).
The news was announced during the 8 p.m. broadcast of the Cuban TV Newscast. It said that, during the meeting of the Council of State, Raúl Castro emphasized that, for this regional development project, national and international experiences were taken into account.
Mariel, a municipality 49 kilometers west of the capital, is one of the island’s best ports. The depth of its bay has been increased enough to accommodate large ships with deep load draft.
West of the bay, on what until 1960 was Cuba’s naval air force base, the landing strip has been extended considerably and widened by means of serious work.
The ZEDM, built at a cost of approximately $900 million (of which Brazil contributes $640 million), will begin partial operations by year’s end. The area set aside for containers can receive about 3 million of them every year.
The concept of the ZEDM is all-inclusive, because its plans allow for housing production centers of various types.
“At the time a ship unloads, say, fabric for garments, an industrial process will begin in the same zone, and out of this port will emerge shirts, pants and other garments,” said a source who works in the facilities being built.
The objectives of the nation’s most important project can be summarized thus:
• To replace the port of Havana as the country’s commercial axis. Havana Bay will be reserved for marinas and the berthing of tourist cruise ships.
• To replace the largest amount of imports as possible, thus stimulating national production and added value.
• To generate jobs in the specific zone and allow development to spill over into the surrounding territory (municipalities and the province of Artemisa, where Mariel is situated.)
The labor force at the ZEDM will be ruled by a special labor regime. Business companies will have to hire personnel through an employment agency owned by the state, a practice that is not new in Cuba.
The decree-law will take effect on Nov. 1 next.