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From: Cuba Transition Project
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Subject: Cuba Focus-Cuba's Debt Crisis: Foreign Debt, Unemployment, and Migration

An Information Service of the
Cuba Transition Project

Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies
University of Miami


Issue 147

August 9, 2011




Hans de Salas-del Valle*



Cuba’s Debt Crisis: Foreign Debt, Unemployment, and Migration


A decade ago the influential British journal The Economist described Cuba’s foreign debt -- then estimated at $12 billion – as “slippery, shapeless and slow to be repaid” (1). Today, the approximately $72 billion in foreign debts and claims against the Cuban government (Table I) amount to an unbearable burden and surreal sum to repay for a country with an economic output barely one-fifth the size of Greece’s own bankrupt economy, and an unemployment rate far higher than Europe’s worst, Spain (Table II). Yet Cuba’s silent crisis has received virtually no media attention in the U.S. or Europe by comparison with the EU’s debt debacle, even though the predominantly European members of the Paris Club collectively hold over $30 billion in Cuban debt, virtually all of it in default or arrears. (2) Separately, Havana owes the Russian Federation some $27 billion in outstanding trade credits and loans granted by the Soviet Union and now claimed by Russia. While Russia has refused to forgive its Soviet-era debts it has, nonetheless, extended more than $1 billion in new government-guaranteed financing for trade with Cuba since the 1990s.


Table I. Cuba’s Foreign Debt, 2010

Creditors (country)

Estimated Debt (units in USD)

Russia (i)

28.149 billion

Venezuela (ii)

15.647 billion

China (iii)

9.100 billion

Japan (iv)

3.420 billion

Spain (v)

3.304 billion

Argentina (vi)

2.400 billion

United States (vii)

1.871 billion

France (viii)

1.306 billion

Romania (ix)

1.200 billion

Brazil (x)

1.200 billion

Italy (xi)

1.008 billion

Iran (xii)

702 million

Mexico (xiii)

400 million

Czech Republic (xiv)

352 million

United Kingdom (xv)

306 million

Germany (xvi)

275 million

Vietnam (xvii)

224 million

Belgium (xviii)

219 million

Panama (xix)

213 million

Canada (xx)

97 million

Netherlands (xxi)

76 million

Denmark (xxii)

15 million

Sweden (xxiii)

15 million

Portugal (xxiv)

5 million

Other Private Financing (xxv)

478 million


71.982 billion


Venezuela Will Surpass Russia as Largest Creditor by 2015

Then there is the debt with Caracas, which in the last decade has afforded Cuba upwards of $15 billion in crude oil and refined fuel to keep the lights on and the buses running in Havana. Despite assertions by the Cuban government that it pays for Venezuelan oil with healthcare providers, school teachers, technicians of all sorts, athletic trainers, and other Cuban human capital assigned to a variety of missions in Venezuela, the fact remains that Caracas compensates Cuba in cash for such services, in violation of the original terms of the “Cuba-Venezuela Integral Cooperation Accord” of October 2000. (3) The accounting for the oil shipped to Cuba has been subsumed since December 2004 into annual bilateral cooperation agreements (4) and multilateral aid pacts between Caracas, Havana, and other ALBA (5) member states (Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and several English-speaking Caribbean islands). We estimate that Cuba’s multi-billion dollar bill for Venezuelan crude has been deferred for at least 17 years, with Caracas having no intention of actually collecting payment in hard currency so long as Chávez and the Castro regime remain in power. The Cuban government nominally “pays” for the oil “sold” by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, with unsecured IOUs issued by Cuba’s national bank. At current market prices, the Cuban economy’s chronic dependence on Venezuelan crude and credit burdens Cuba with an additional $3.6 billion in debt annually. By 2015 Caracas will have surpassed Moscow as Havana’s single largest creditor with $30 billion at stake in the Castro regime.

Debt Burden at 125 % of GDP

By now the reality of a massive foreign debt that will not go away, and continues to grow with each passing year, has caught up with the Castro regime. With a debt burden equivalent to 125 percent of Cuba’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 (Table II), Havana finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Just as Raúl Castro attempts to restructure Cuban communism along pragmatic Chinese lines, securing the one-party communist state while attracting foreign capital into strategic export-oriented industries, Cuba struggles to generate enough hard currency revenue to pay for essential imports. In fact, without the soft credits and long-term flexible financing provided by Venezuela, China, Brazil, Iran, Vietnam, and a few other strategic allies, the Cuban economy would collapse. Whether Raúl Castro will prove to be Cuba’s Deng Xiaoping or its unwitting Gorbachev will largely depend on how quickly and effectively he can turn Havana into a Beijing in the tropics. Yet in spite of expanding self-employment options and leasing state-owned lands to would-be farmer-entrepreneurs, for now the state cannot function without soft credit from political allies to import just about every basic input and consumer good: rice from Vietnam, oil from Venezuela, buses from China. Although the Castro regime has managed to stay afloat over the last 20 years by selectively borrowing, renegotiating, deferring, and defaulting on debts to a diverse group of creditors and countries, if Havana should lose access to government-backed loans, trade credits, and other forms of long-term financing and subsidies currently offered by Beijing, Brasilia, Caracas, Hanoi, Moscow, Tehran, and other diehard patrons of the Castro regime, the island’s vulnerable economy would face imminent ruin.

Havana: The “Athens” of the Americas

Just how severe is Cuba’s debt crisis? In Table II we compare macroeconomic data on Cuba with corresponding figures for the most heavily indebted European countries that have required financial bailouts. Cuba, with a foreign debt that reached 125 percent of GDP in 2010, surpassed Iceland, Portugal, and Ireland in terms of indebtedness relative to the size of the country’s economic productivity. While Greece and Cuba are nearly equal in population size Athens’ debts (equivalent to 144 % of Greek GDP) overshadow even Havana’s. Nevertheless, Greece shows signs of life when measured against Cuba’s moribund economy. The 11.3 million people of Greece generated over $300 billion in goods and services, and the country earned a modest $21 billion in hard currency through exports. Cuba’s $58 billion economy, by comparison, exported a mere $3.3 billion in 2010. The Cuban economy simply has no way out but to start from scratch and grow its way out of debt. Yet if the Greeks, with a GDP of $305 billion, face national bankruptcy and years of austerity measures then Havana, which defaulted on its hard currency debts to Western creditors in 1986 (6), will have to do more than just successfully replicate Beijing’s economic achievements in terms of attracting large sums of foreign capital into export-oriented industries. More than paper policies, the regime will also have to stimulate, or shock, workers into productivity in order to convert easy-going Cuban compañeros to the work ethic and expectations of their Chinese comrades. (7) The termination of guaranteed wages for the unemployed (8) and the projected elimination of 500,000 jobs from official payrolls by the end of 2011 are likely but the first shocks to which Cuba’s formerly complacent labor force will be subjected. (9)


Table II. Cuba v. Europe: Comparative Macroeconomic Data, 2010



Economy (GDP, units in USD)

Public Debt (% of GDP)

Exports (units in USD)

(% of labor force)



305 billion


21.1 billion


11.3 million


58 billion


3.3 billion

26.9 (est.)

11.2 million


13 billion


4.6 billion


0.318 million


229 billion


46.3 billion


10.6 million


204 billion


115.7 billion


4.67 million


1,410 billion


268.3 billion


46.7 million

*Ranked by indebtedness
Sources: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, 2010 data, (accessed July 2011). Estimate for Cuba’s actual unemployment rate from Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “El desempleo en Cuba: De oculto a visible,” Espacio Laical (4/2010),


Unemployment: 45 % by 2015

To the degree that Raúl Castro’s reforms succeed in liberalizing Cuba’s labor market the government will then have to figure out what to do with hundreds of thousands of formerly subsidized workers accustomed to non-productive roles at bloated ministries and state-run enterprises. While many individuals may be incentivized by higher wages or better prospects as self-employed service providers, vendors, and would-be farmer-entrepreneurs (10), the sudden downsizing of the public sector has exposed an actual unemployment rate estimated at above 25 percent, and rising. (11) Furthermore, Cuba’s structural unemployment problem can only be expected to worsen in the near term while the government continues to let go of as many as 1.3 million surplus workers in the next few years. The state’s need to rapidly cut costs and enhance productivity will unleash an avalanche of public-sector workers onto the streets and exacerbate the shortage of jobs far beyond what the island’s real economy, dependent on tourism and remittances, could offset even in the best of circumstances. Last year, when the lay-offs began, the actual number of Cubans without a sustainable, productive occupation (whether nominally employed or otherwise) had already reached about 1.3 million (12). Although the government announced in March 2011 that it would delay its initial deadline for the downsizing of the state’s payroll, it intends to transfer 200,000 workers per year into the ranks of the self-employed over the next five years. (13) Moreover, the term “self-employed” increasingly serves as a euphemism for those who have lost their state-subsidized jobs and must now scramble to find any alternative source of income. We estimate that, as the regime presses on with its economic reform policies, the country’s real, street-level unemployment rate will exceed 30 percent in 2011. Ultimately, actual unemployed and underemployed workers may account for as much as 45 percent of the Cuban labor force by 2015. (14)

In the words of Lenin’s provocative pamphlet, what is to be done? For many Cubans the answer lies in a place rather than in politics: Miami. For Havana, however, the mass migration of unskilled, unemployable and unproductive segments of the workforce to the South Florida region may also serve its own purposes in the ongoing standoff with Washington. Much as Fidel Castro outmaneuvered and embarrassed multiple U.S. administrations (Republican and Democrat alike), and won strategic concessions, through the use or threat of migration as a foreign policy weapon, Raúl Castro could quietly but effectively shift over a million surplus workers across the Florida Straits, and transfer the socio-economic costs and political consequences of the regime’s policies to Miami-Dade, Tallahassee, and the White House.


Cuba’s Two and a Half Million Displaced Workers: ¿Bienvenidos a Miami?

In fact, the decade that just concluded set a new immigration record as more than 274,000 Cubans obtained legal permanent residency in the United States from 2000 to 2009. This silent, steady surge in U.S.-bound emigration overtook the previous peak period of the late 1960s-early 1970s (when some 256,000 refugees fled the island). (15) The magnitude of this migration also suggests that we are witnessing a massive movement of population no longer propelled by individual ideological convictions, collective class struggles (e.g., Revolution, communism, expropriation, etc.), or even singular historic events (e.g., Mariel boatlift), but rather by underlying structural and socio-economic factors. At the current rate (16) we estimate that some 400,000 Cubans (a 46 percent increase over the preceding decade) will emigrate and resettle permanently in the United States (80 percent within the state of Florida alone) between 2010 and 2019. This projection does not, however, take into account the impact of large-scale, long-term unemployment on emigration in the years to come, which could draw on at least 2.5 million displaced and discouraged workers. In the post-Soviet “Special Period” of the early 1990s the Castro regime attempted to instantly “create” jobs by transferring about 800,000 employees from state-owned enterprises to an expanded “self-employment” sector, which in turn largely caters to the tourism industry, or to government-subsidized small-scale urban farming. This experimental intervention in the labor market, without addressing the Cuban economy’s fundamental problems, resulted in an actual unemployment rate approaching 50 percent of the total workforce by 1995 (17), or the equivalent of two and a half million idle and underemployed workers today.

A diplomatic cable sent to Washington in February 2010 from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana warned senior officials at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, U.S. Coast Guard, and the European Union, among others, that the Cuban government’s debt burden could prove “fatal” to the island’s economy by 2013. (18) Ultimately, Washington may have to accept an indirect and tacit bailout for the Castro regime by absorbing Cuba’s surplus labor through a continuous flow of mass immigration in the coming years, or contend with the dreaded political and humanitarian consequences of severely restricting Cuban migration to the United States and inducing a high-stakes crisis in Havana. What then is to be done with several million unemployed Cubans? While Washington simultaneously fears and evades this question, and Miami keeps hoping for a spontaneous uprising, it appears the Castro regime has already decided and once again taken the initiative: ¡a Miami! If so, the brewing demographic tidal wave from Cuba will not only transform the character and composition of the Cuban-American community but permanently shift the balance of power from Miami to Havana. Once the exile capital of a vanished Cuba, a politically vanquished Miami will turn into a de facto dependency, economic enclave, and cultural extension of Raúl Castro’s Havana.


1. The Economist, “Cuba’s debt: Slippery, shapeless and slow to be repaid,” May 17, 2001.
2. Cf. Club de Paris/Paris Club, Annual Report 2010, p. 48.
3. Cf. “Convenio Integral de Cooperación entre la República de Cuba y la República Bolivariana de Venezuela,” Caracas, October 30, 2000, (accessed July 2011).
4. In June 2011, Caracas and Havana signed their 11th annual cooperation agreement based on the 2000 accord. The Venezuelan government will fund $1.3 billion in joint ventures and programs with Cuba. Cf. Granma Internacional, “A unique cooperation mechanism between the two countries,” Havana, June 14, 2011, (accessed July 2011).
5. ALBA, or the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America,” encompasses aspects of both a political alliance and an economic integration treaty. The founding document, originally between Cuba and Venezuela, was signed by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez in December 2004. Typically, Caracas contributes most of the financing for multilateral ALBA projects and investments while Havana provides the personnel and services, either abroad or within Cuba. Cf. ALBA: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, (accessed July 2011). A representative example can be seen in recent energy cooperation agreement between Ecuador and Cuba. Since 2006, Cuba has exported, installed, and managed “containerized” mini-power plants (diesel-powered generators) at multiple sites in Ecuador at an estimated cost of $450 million. The funding (including $5.6 million for Cuban consulting services) has been provided by the Ecuadorian government, an ALBA member. Cf. “Cubanos reconvertirán centrales térmicas,” La Hora (Quito, Ecuador), Nov. 12, 2006, (accessed July 2011); “Ecuador expands power agreements,” Cuba, July 24, 2011, (accessed July 2011).
6. Matthew Pickles, “Cuban Debt Basket case or high performer?” Cuba Absolutely (Feb. 2008), (accessed July 2011).
7. Cf. “Person of the Year 2009: The Chinese Worker,” Time (Dec. 16. 2009),,28804,1946375_1947252_1947256,00.html. See also Xinhua, “Chinese workers draw world’s attention for their fortitude, again,” Zouping, Shandong (China), Dec. 2, 2010, (accessed July 2011).
8. Fernando Ravsberg, “Cuba elimina subsidio al desempleo,” BBC Mundo, Havana, February 3, 2010. See also Global Studies Initiative, “Cuban government withdraws payments to the unemployed, under intense economic pressure,” March 9, 2010, (accessed July 2011).
9. Marc Frank, “Cuban state layoffs move slowly, workers uneasy,” Reuters, Havana, March 8, 2011.
10. Julio Martínez Molina et al., “Self-Employment Takes Off in Cuba,” Juventud Rebelde (Cuba), March 22, 2011, (accessed July 2011); Mary Murray, “Cubans begin to enjoy making money,” NBC News, May 6, 2011, (accessed July 2011).
11. Cf. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “El desempleo en Cuba: De oculto a visible,” Espacio Laical 4/2010 (Cuba), (accessed July 2011).
12. Ibid. See discussion and tables on pp. 60, 62. Mesa-Lago estimates that actual unemployment in 2010 had reached 26.9 %, or over 1.3 million of Cuba’s estimated 5.1 million working-age adults.
13. Cf. “Cuba está en quiebra y eliminará unos 200.000 puestos de trabajo al año,” El Diario Exterior (Madrid), July 20, 2010.
14. Previous efforts by regime planners to spur the economy with market-oriented reforms, including the legalization of home-based restaurants (paladares) and private homes converted into family-run inns (casas particulares) to cater to the post-Soviet boom in tourism, produced just over 144,000 private sector jobs between 1989 and 2005, or less than 10,000 per year. Meanwhile, actual employment had burgeoned to 40 percent by the mid-1990s. See the study by Mesa-Lago, op. cit., pp. 60, 63.
15. Cf. “Cuban Migration to South Florida: Impact and Implications,” Cuba Focus, Oct. 9, 2009, (accessed July 2011). Total figure for the decade includes 38,954 new permanent legal residents of Cuban origin in U.S. fiscal year 2009. See Randall Monger and James Yankay, “U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2010,” Annual Flow Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics), March 2011 (accessed July 2011).
16. The United States has admitted an average of 40,000 new legal permanent residents of Cuban origin annually since Raúl Castro assumed power. Cf. data for fiscal years 2008-2010 in Monger and Yankay, “U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2010,” op. cit., p. 4.
17. Estimated actual unemployment in 1995 by independent Cuban economists. Cf. J. M. Perry, L. A. Woods, and J. W. Steagall, “Alternative Policies to Deal with Labor Surpluses During the Cuban Transition,” Proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, Vol. 6 (August 1996), (accessed July 2011).
18. Cf. U.S. Interests Section, Havana, “10Havana84: Key Trading Partners See No Big Economic Reforms,” February 9, 2010, WikiLeaks (December 16, 2010), (accessed August 2011). See also Jens Erik Gould, “Cuba Debt Load May Become ‘Fatal’ to Economy in Two Years, U.S. Cable Says,” Bloomberg, Dec. 10, 2010, (accessed August 2011).


Table I: Notes and Sources

(i) The total debt includes the equivalent of US$27 billion in Soviet-era claims by Moscow and at least US$1.149 billion in new loans, commercial credits, and financing for previous debts issued or guaranteed by the government of the Russian Federation since the demise of the Soviet Union. Select Sources: Russian Federation Ministry of Finance, “Prospectus” for Eurobond issue, Reuters, March 8, 2011, (accessed July 2011); “Russia grants $355mln loan to Fidel Castro,” Kommersant (Moscow), Sept. 30, 2006; MosNews, “Cuba to buy VIP Russian jets for $100M,” Moscow, 13 July 2004; Sergey Ryzhkin, “Russian Aircraft Industry to Supply Cuba,” Kommersant (Moscow), April 11, 2006;, “Russia Grants $355M Credit to Cuba, Restructures Recent Debts,” Moscow, 29 Sept. 2006; “Bank Wins $330 Million In Suit v. Cuba,” Kommersant (Moscow), Sept. 4, 2008,;, “Russia extends $150m loan as it signs oil exploration deal with Cuba,” (Moscow), July 30, 2009.

(ii) Includes an estimated US$3.532 billion in long-term financing and/or unpaid oil deliveries from late 2000 through 2005; $2.003 billion in deferred payments on an estimated 98,000 bpd (at a market value of $56 per barrel) in 2006; $2.254 billion for 98,000 bpd of Venezuelan oil in 2007 (based on $63/barrel market price for Venezuelan crude); $2.904 billion in 2008 for 92,000 bpd of Venezuelan oil and refined products (at $86.49/barrel average market price for Venezuelan crude in 2008); $2.081 billion for 100,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2009; and $2.653 billion for 100,000 b/d in 2010. The figure also encompasses $220 million in trade financing provided to Cuba in 2006 by Venezuela’s state-run export bank, Banco de Comercio Exterior (Bancoex) for non-oil imports from Venezuelan suppliers. Select Sources: Alexei Barrionuevo and José de Córdoba, “For Aging Castro, Chávez Emerges as a Vital Crutch,” The Wall Street Journal, 2 February 2004; Marianna Párraga, "Cuba acumula deuda de US$891 millones con Venezuela," El Universal (Caracas), 14 January 2004; M. Párraga, “Cuba recibe despachos adicionales de petróleo,” El Universal (Caracas), 22 February 2005; M. Párraga, “Petrocaribe captará inversión del holding,” El Universal, 2 July 2005, Danna Harman, “Chávez seeks influence with oil diplomacy,” The Christian Science Monitor, 25 August 2005, Guillermo Parra-Bernal, “Castro’s Doctors-for-Oil Swap with Chávez Bolsters Bush’s Foes,” Bloomberg, Oct. 30, 2006, El Universal (Caracas), “Márquez: 120 empresas de Venezuela exportan sus productos a Cuba,” 24 October, 2006; Reuters, “Cuba y Venezuela buscan mejorar recepción refinería Cienfuegos,” Havana, 15 October 2008. See also Jorge Piñón, “Venezuela Oil Subsidies to Cuba Surpassed $3 Billion in 2006,” Cuba Facts (August 2007), Cuba Transition Project, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), University of Miami, (accessed July 2011); Juan O. Tamayo, “Cuba would hurt if Chávez is replaced,” The Miami Herald, July 2, 2011, (accessed July 2011).

(iii) Beijing has postponed repayment on an estimated US$4 billion in accumulated trade credits and loans to the Cuban government dating from the late 1990s through 2010. In support of Raul Castro’s economic policies the Chinese government authorized the Export-Import Bank of China to provide about $5.1 billion in financing for Chinese investments in Cuba’s oil and natural gas sector. Selected Sources: Marc Frank, “China restructures Cuban debt, backs reform,” Reuters, Havana, Dec. 23, 2010; Esteban Israel, “China company to lead $6bln Cuba refinery,” Reuters, Havana, Nov. 22, 2010. See also Carmelo Mesa-Lago, The Cuban Economy Today: Salvation or Damnation? (Cuba Transition Project, Univ. of Miami, 2005) p. 11; Mark Frank, “China’s Cuba business takes big leap forward,” Havana, Reuters, 11 April 11, 2001; BBC News, “China to lend Cuba $400m,” Havana, April 13, 2001; “China Offer 400 Million Dollars in Loans to Cuba,” Beijing, People’s Daily, April 14, 2001; Feliberto Carrié, “El Banco de Shanghai concede a Cuba un crédito por 72 millones de dólares para la construcción de un hotel,” Europa Press, Havana, Oct. 4, 2002; Marc Frank, “Trade with China helps Cuba to move up a gear,” Financial Times, March 8, 2006; Julio A. Díaz Vázquez, “Notas acerca de las relaciones: China-Cuba,” El Economista de Cuba, Aug. 1, 2008,

(iv) Cuba’s long-term debt to Japan is composed of approximately 245.86 billion yen in banking, commercial, and government-to-government, much of which originated in the 1970s and 1980s. More recent debt consists of at least 25.5 billion yen in commercial credit in default and now owed to Japan’s government-backed trade insurer, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI). Japanese banks also extended modest sums ($4 million) to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010. Select Sources: Kyodo/The Associated Press, “Japan accepts terms for deferring Cuba’s debt repayment,” Havana, 24 November 1999; Marc Frank, “Cuba repays some official debt as economy picks up,” Reuters, Havana, 26 April 2004; BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(v) Cuba owes Spain government approximately 2.094 billion euros (about US$2.937 billion) in unpaid trade credits and commercial debts (originally issued or guaranteed by Madrid, and now in arrears or default as of the end of 2010). In addition, Spanish banks provided at least US$367 million in short-term financing to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010. Select Sources: Embassy of Spain in Cuba, Oficina Económica y Comercial de España en Cuba, “Ficha País,” Havana, June 2011,,,,00.bin?doc=4492707 (accessed July 2011); Bank for International Settlements (BIS), “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011, (accessed July 2011).

(vi) Cf. Antonio Martínez, “La presidenta de Argentina busca reactivar el comercio con Cuba,” EFE, Havana, Jan. 19, 2009; Reuters, “Cuba, Argentina restore full ties, discuss debt,” Havana, 13 Oct. 2003; Natasha Niebieskikwiat, “Cuba busca una quita del 75% de su deuda con la Argentina,” Clarín, Buenos Aires, 14 October 2003 The Cuban government proposed a deal in 2003 on its bilateral debt with Argentina, which called for 75% of the total to be forgiven upfront by Buenos Aires and the remainder to be repaid through credit for future Cuban exports to Argentina. The total debt owed to Buenos Aires, consisting of loans and credits offered to the Castro regime by Argentinean governments in the 1970s and early 1980s, has now reached $2.4 billion (including accumulated interest).

(vii) The figure represents the assessed value of corporate and personal claims against Cuban government Castro regime for expropriated assets of U.S. citizens and corporations by the Castro regime, and subsequently certified by the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) in 1972. Two more claims (for just over $51 million) were approved by the Cuban Claims Programs of the FCSC in 2006. The total value of certified claims does not include cumulative annual interest of six percent. Cf. Timothy Ashby, “U.S. Certified Claims Against Cuba: Legal Reality and Likely Settlement Mechanisms,” University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Spring 2009; U.S. Department of Justice, Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, Cuban Claims Programs, (accessed July 2011).

(viii) According to the latest data available (to the end of December 2009), France’s claims against the Cuban government for unpaid trade credits and commercial debt in default stood at approximately 508 million euros (about US$711 million). Separately, French banks provided US$595 million in private financing to Havana in the fourth quarter of 2010. Sources: French Ministry for the Economy, Finance, and Industry, “Tableau des encours de créances sur les Etats étrangers au 31 décembre 2009,” available at: (accessed July 2011); BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(ix) Cuba stands out as Romania’s single largest foreign debtor, owing its former Soviet bloc trading partner the equivalent of US$1.2 billion in unpaid commercial credit prior to1990. Cf. Tonia Raluca, “Cuba, Romania’s biggest debtor,” Nine O’Clock (Romania), Oct. 27, 2010.

(x) Through 2012 Brazil’s state-owned development bank, BNDES, has committed US$1.2 billion in government-guaranteed loans for exports and strategic investments in Cuba by Brazilian enterprises.
Cf. “BNDES financia obras em porto cubano,” Gazeta do Povo (Brazil), Feb. 25, 2010; Andre Soliani and Iuri Dantas, “Lula to Mend Honduras Ties as Brazil Seeks More Clout,” Bloomberg, Brasilia, Feb. 22, 2010.

(xi) Cuban debts include 508 million euros in default to SACE (Italy’s government-backed export financing agency), US$206 million to Telecom Italia for acquisition of its shares in Cuban state-run telecommunications company ETECSA, and US$87 million in short-term lending to Italian banks as of the fourth quarter of 2010. Select Sources: Mario Sensini, “Urso a Cuba, accordo sui crediti Sace,” Corriere della Sera, Nov. 5, 2009; Reuters, “Telecom Italia sells ETECSA stake for $706 million,” Rome, Jan. 31, 2011; BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xii) In June 2008, Iran increased its credit line for Cuba to 500 million euros. Cf. Fars News Agency, “Iran, Cuba Sign Trade MoU,” Tehran, June 20, 2008,; IRNA, “Iran, Cuba sign investment, trade MoU,” Tehran, April 24, 2006.

(xiii) Mexico’s export financing bank, Bancomext, recovered $35 million in 2006 through litigation in European courts after protracted efforts in pursuit of $554.9 million in default by the Central Bank of Cuba. In 2008, the two governments agreed to restructure Havana’s debts for $400 million. Cf. Antonio Castellanos and Susan González, “Restructuran México y Cuba la deuda de 400 mdd con Bancomext,” La Jornada (Mexico City), Feb. 18, 2008; “Congela México cuentas bancarias de Cuba en Europa,” Invertia, 12 Sept. 2007; Miriam Posada García, “Recuperó Bancomext 35mdd que adeudaba Banco Nacional de Cuba,” La Jornada (Mexico City), May 3, 2006.

(xiv) The Czech Republic maintains that the Castro regime owes the equivalent of 250 million euros in unpaid commercial credit granted to Cuba by the former Czechoslovakia prior to the demise of the Soviet-sponsored communist trading bloc (COMECON) in 1990. Cf. Freddy Valderde, “Cuba deba más de 250 millones de euros a la República Checa,” Radio Praha (Prague), April 7, 2011. Previously, Prague’s claims against Havana had been reported as 5.8 billion Czech korunas. See also Pablo Alfonso, “Crisis checa puede estar cerca del fin,” El Nuevo Herald, Jan. 31, 2001; Czech News Agency, “Foreign Countries Owe Czech Rep. KC25BN,” Prague, Sept. 18, 2006; EFE, “Cuba es el principal país deudor de la República Checa,” Prague, Oct. 29. 2007.

(xv) Cuba owes the British government at least 100 million pounds in unpaid commercial claims insured by the UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD). In addition, by the end of the 1990s the Cuban government had accumulated 90 million pounds in overdue obligations to British firms. See Reuters, “UK to reopen Cuba credit cover after debt deal,” London, Sept. 23, 1999.

(xvi) In May 2000, Cuba and Germany signed a debt restructuring agreement, including East and West German claims, to repay 230 million German marks (then valued at $115 million). Cf. EFE, “Berlín y La Habana firman acuerdo renegociación de deuda,” Berlin, May 26, 2000. In addition, German banks provided $160 million to Cuba during the fourth quarter of 2010. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xvii) Vietnam supplies the bulk of Cuba’s imported rice with one-year repayment terms, either interest-free or at subsidized rates. In 2010, Vietnam shipped 400,000 tons of rice to Cuba with financing worth at least $170 million (at a minimum market value of $424 per ton). Separately, a Cuban state-owned firm, Consumimport, owed over $54 million (as of 2010) to Vietnam’s consumer electronics manufacturer Dien Quang Lamp (DQC) for an overdue Vietnamese government loan for the export of light bulbs to Cuba. Select Sources: Thai Ca and Tran Manh, “Listed lighting bulb maker looks set to be booming in 2011,” Saigon GP Daily English edition (Vietnam), March 31, 2011; Reuters, “Cuba buys 250,000 tons of rice from Vietnam,” Hanoi, April 5, 2011; Hedelberto López Blanch, “Cuba y Viet Nam: Intercambios comerciales multifacéticos,” Opciones, March 11, 2005; Reuters, “Vietnam and Cuba cement ties with trade agreement,” Havana, Oct. 29, 2002.

(xviii) Cuba and Belgium signed a bilateral accord in 2000 on the short-term portion (17.35 million euros) of Havana’s 171-million-euro debt to Brussels (EFE, “Bruselas y La Habana renegocian deuda bilateral,” Brussels, 30 March 2000), leaving in place a long-term debt of at least 154 million euros (about $218 million). In addition, Belgian banks provided small sums ($1 million) to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xix) In March 2008, the then new Panamanian ambassador to Cuba announced that Cuba had amassed a commercial debt with his country of $425 million but that a new bilateral cooperation agreement (entailing the hiring of Cuban experts to work in Panama and 1,000 Cuban scholarships for Panamanian students to attend medical school in Cuba) would reduce the total in arrears by 50 percent within three years. Estimated Cuban debts to Panama are thus to have fallen to some $213 million by the end of 2010. Cf. Reuters, “Cuba y Panama multiplicand comercio hasta 500 mlns dlrs,” Havana, March 25, 2008; “Panamá firme en sus relaciones con Cuba, pese a presiones EEUU,” (Panama City), March 25, 2008.

(xx) The Cuban government signed an agreement in February 2009 with Toronto-based Sherritt International Corp. to repay the company US$162 million over five years (through 2013) for crude oil production and natural gas-powered electricity generation in 2008, after Havana fell behind on its payments to its largest joint-venture partner in the energy sector. If the terms of the agreement have been fulfilled, the outstanding amount should have fallen to approximately US$97 million toward the end of 2010. Cf. Will Weissert, “Cuba to repay $162M to Sherritt over 5 years,” AP, Havana, Feb. 25, 2009.

(xxi) Banks based in the Netherlands provided $76 million in financing to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xxii) Commercial debt of 78,550, 851 DKR (currently valued at $14.9 million, not including interest) from transactions in the early 1980s, subsequently rescheduled by the Danish government in 1983, and in default since 1986 after Castro declared a moratorium on Cuban foreign debt repayment. Cf. UN Treaties No. 21904, Cuba and Denmark, “Agreement concerning the rescheduling of debts,” Copenhagen, April 8, 1983,

(xxiii) Swedish banks provided $15 million in financing to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xxiv) Portuguese banks provided $5 million in loans to Cuba in the last quarter of 2010. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.

(xxv) Figure represents additional private financing to Cuba in the fourth quarter of 2010 by lenders of non-disclosed nationality. Cf. BIS, “Consolidated Banking Statistics,” BIS Quarterly Review, June 2011.


*Hans de Salas del Valle is a Research Associate (on leave), Cuba Transition Project, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.


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