14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2016 — The Brazilian Odebrecht Group will expand its presence in Cuba with two contracts in the sugar industry and in civil aviation, according a report from the Prensa Latina agency. On January 13, the company also received authorization to operate in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) over the next 15 years to provide engineering and construction services to potential foreign investors through its Works and Infrastructure Company (COI).
A representative of Odebrecht, Mauro Augusto Hueb, told Prensa Latina that the business potential is enormous and that COI is studying the possibility of asking the Cuban authorities for another permission to invest in a plant producing plastic packaging located in Mariel.
The Brazilian company has signed a management contract with Azcuba, Cuba’s state sugar company, for the September Fifth Sugar Mill in Cienfuegos. “Our work will include loan structuring, modernizing the plant, improving the agricultural side and central administration, with a guarantee of maximum power generation from the cane bagasse,” said Hueb. He said that the first action will be to increase sugarcane plantings and efficiency per hectare.
Hueb praised the “high educational level, sense of discipline and impressive ability to learn” of Cuban workers and said that on the island the company found “a great potential for permanence in perpetuity.”
In Cuba, Odebrecht built the container terminal at the Port of Mariel, a one billion dollar project, most of it financed by loans from the Brazilian government. Its Works and Infrastructure Company is responsible for the modernization and expansion of Terminal Three at the José Martí International Airport in Havana. The group expects the new facility will be operational within two years and “will double the airport’s capacity to respond to the growth in international tourism.”
The company is convinced that the country offers “security for investors.” Hueb added, “When we first came, we found it notable that the economic guidelines approved by the government arose from a joint effort with the population… There is a clear vision of the direction that Cuba wants to follow to develop, and this provides security for investors.”
Hueb acknowledged that many foreigners who come to the island express concern when it comes time to invest. “Whenever I have the opportunity, I tell them about my experience in the implementation of the container terminal in Mariel: some 6,000 Cubans were involved in that, and for us the employment company [the Cuban government] was never an obstacle, its involvement was feasible, beneficial, economical and efficient,” he said.
Odebrecht is being investigated in Brazil along with 26 other firms for their alleged involvement in a corruption network entrenched in Petrobras which, over the past decade, according to the oil company’s own admissions, illegally appropriated two billion dollars. The president of the group, Marcelo Odebrecht, was arrested last June as part of the investigation, accused of fraud.