The Economist on Cuba “Juice” Scam

HAVANA TIMES, August 26 — The Economist magazine online runs a feature story on Thursday about the dealings of Chilean multimillionaire Max Marambio in Cuba and the now defunct Rio Zaza joint venture with the island’s government.

“Max Marambio, a Chilean businessman, can claim an unusual consequence of his friendship with Fidel Castro. It made him rich. A guerrilla in the 1960s and then a bodyguard of Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende, Mr. Marambio set up one of the earliest business joint-ventures with Cuba’s Communist regime. For the past two decades this company, Rio Zaza, enjoyed a near-monopoly on sales of packaged fruit juice and milk across the island. Mr. Marambio, dubbed in Cuba “the potbelly” because of his portly figure, became a multimillionaire.

“That apparently did not offend Mr. Castro.  Neighbors at the businessman’s grand 1950s home on the outskirts of Havana recall that the Cuban leader was a frequent evening guest (the home itself is believed to have been a gift from Mr. Castro). But now the house lies empty, its rolling lawns unkempt. Mr. Marambio is a wanted man. Cuba’s government, led now by Fidel’s brother Raúl, ordered him to return to the island by August 23rd for questioning about bribery and fraud at Rio Zaza. Mr. Marambio, who denies all the allegations, declined the invitation.”

Read the full Economist article titled Potbelly and rumbling stomachs