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Daily Archives: January 16, 2006

China becomes Cuba’s No. 2 trading partner

becomes Cuba’s No. 2 trading partnerOnly supplies more goods to island nation; drops to fourthBy ANTHONY BOADLE Monday, January 16, 2006 Page B6Reuters News Agency HAVANA — China became Cuba’s second-largest trading partner after Venezuela in 2005, but Chinese companies worry about collecting payment for their increasing sales of durable goods to the island, a Chinese diplomat says.A $500-million (U.S.) Chinese in Cuba’s nickel industry, announced more than a year ago, is still under negotiation, China’s commercial counsellor in Havana, Yang Shidi, said.China’s growing influence on the Cuban economy is evident on the streets and in the shops, where Chinese goods such as toys, clothes and sports equipment have replaced imports from other countries.Spanking new air-conditioned buses made by China’s Yutong Co. Ltd., the first of 1,000 sold to Cuba, make a sharp contrast with the vintage American cars still motoring along Cuban streets.Young Chinese business executives have become a familiar sight at Havana’s hotels and as the Communist-run allies strengthen their economic ties.China is selling Cuba television sets, electric cookers, steamers and light bulbs. Cuba wants to buy one million Chinese refrigerators as part of its energy-saving plan to replace decades-old household appliances.Twelve diesel locomotives arrived by ship from China a week ago to upgrade Cuba’s railway system.“Two-way trade has reached record levels and we hope it will continue to expand steadily,” Mr. Yang said.Chinese exports to Cuba grew 95 per cent in the first 10 months of 2005 to more than $500-million, while imports grew 17 per cent to $200-million, he said.Cuban officials said total trade between the two countries reached $1-billion last year and China rose from fourth to second place among Cuba’s most important trading partners, displacing and Canada.The sales to Cuba are financed with millions of dollars in credits extended largely by the exporting companies themselves, Mr. Yang said.“China is a market economy and the companies take their own decisions and risks. . . . The worry the companies have is how they will get paid for the growing sales,” he said.Cuban sales to China are mainly sugar, a declining industry.“The Chinese give a lot of credit quickly, but they are very cautious when it comes to investing,” a Cuban economist said.China’s state-owned China Minmetals Corp. agreed last year to form a joint venture to produce ferro-nickel at a plant that was abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed.The $500-million project would produce 68,000 tons of ferro-nickel a year beginning in 2007-2008, but plans have reportedly been delayed.  

Spy case a burden for FIU leader

Posted on Mon, Jan. 16, 2006

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL Spy case a burden for FIU leaderThe revelation that two people accused of spying have been working at FIU has made Modesto ”Mitch” Maidique’s job even more challenging than usual.BY NOAH BIERMAN AND LUISA YANEZ

Long before he became president of Florida International University, Modesto ”Mitch” Maidique had a friend in Carlos M. Alvarez, the faculty member now accused of spying for Cuba.”The first time I met Maidique, when he was applying for the [job as] president, one of the first people he brought to lunch was Carlos Alvarez,” recalled Tony Maingot, a retired FIU professor who served on the presidential search committee in 1986.The pair’s friendship, which goes back 25 years, was thrust into the public spotlight last week when Maidique showed up at Alvarez’s bond hearing. He was also among 30 people the defense said were supporters of Alvarez and his wife, Elsa, also an FIU employee.Maidique, the first native of Cuba to head a large U.S. university, left federal court last Monday before a denied the couple bond. Since then, he has said little about his courtroom appearance.That day capped a challenging couple of months for the 65-year-old university president. In December, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing ”grave concerns” about his leadership.Now his friend’s arrest has created a different kind of pressure on him — and his .The spy charges force Maidique to protect the institution’s reputation and its Cuba research program from scrutiny outside the school, just as he was defending his own leadership inside the school.At the same time, he is privately facing questions about a longtime friend — and whether a personal relationship has been betrayed.”I think that people are very upset as to the fact that a public university was being used as an operational base for spying for Cuba,” said Ninoska Pérez-Castellón, a popular Spanish-language radio personality and founder of the conservative Cuban Liberty Council.Still, she and others are giving Maidique the benefit of the doubt, for now.A few Cuban-American exile leaders say he was duped by Alvarez.”I think he needs to be very careful” in protecting himself and the institution, said Alfredo Mesa, director of the Cuban American National Foundation. “My heart goes out to him. . . . He’s a victim.”And on campus, some professors — including Faculty Senate Chairman Bruce Hauptli — praised Maidique for resisting pressure to abandon an old friend in a difficult environment.”I don’t want to be the focus or the center of the [Alvarez] story,” Maidique said in a phone interview Thursday. He said it would be inappropriate to comment about Alvarez because he might have to decide whether the tenured professor violated university policy. FIU is conducting an internal review of the case.But Maidique did disclose that he used his office budget to pay for two of Alvarez’s trips to leadership training seminars over the past two years. He said his staff would provide documents detailing those trips.FIU has played a major role in Miami’s Cuban-American success story, graduating thousands of students, including future civic and business leaders, since 1972.During nearly 20 years as president, Maidique has worked closely with local politicians and captains of industry to achieve his goals of building up the university.`A TARGET’”Maidique, of course, would be a target [for would-be spies]. Anyone with influence is a target,” said José Basulto, founder of , which was infiltrated by a Cuban spy a decade ago.The Alvarezes are not accused of passing government secrets to Cuba. Prosecutors say they supplied President ’s regime with information about South Florida’s exile leaders and community.Maidique comes from a family with its own dramatic history in Cuban politics. His father, Modesto Sr., was a senator who took part in a political duel in 1931 and was murdered eight years later, when his son was an infant.Now the spy arrests are fueling a different kind of drama, this one involving FIU’s Cuba research program. The think tank includes scholars who favor dialogue with Castro, many of whom have felt a chill in the days after the arrests.The case has emboldened hard-liners who have criticized FIU’s Cuban Research Institute on local Spanish-language stations. The think tank sponsors to Cuba, relying on grant money from private foundations.”People are upset,” Pérez-Castellón said. “People begin to question what is the purpose of these exchanges.”So far, FIU’s political support appears unswayed.”Mitch has never taken a leftist attitude, as far as I know,” said state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami. “The fact that you have left-leaning organizations on campus — isn’t that what college campuses usually are?”Alvarez, who is on paid administrative leave, works in the department and is considered a ”peripheral player” in the Cuban Research Institute, said its director, Damián Fernández.TRIPS TO CUBAAlvarez took five trips to Cuba between 1993 and 2003 under the institute’s auspices. FIU has yet to provide further details on his university travel.”I think that the CRI and its leadership as an institution is pretty blameless,” Maidique said. On Wednesday, he reinforced his support for the institute at a luncheon in Coral Gables, which included exile leaders from across the political spectrum. It was a position to which he has become accustomed.”Maidique has always been in that division between a faculty that is more liberal than a community that it serves,” said Dario Moreno, an FIU expert on politics.  

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