HAVANA, Cuba. – In the economic reports published by Bouygues on its website between 2008 and 2018, even though there is nothing itemized concerning its Cuba affairs, one can appreciate the growth of business in the Caribbean area where Cuba is, without a doubt, a leading partner with over fifty engineering and architecture projects to date.
In Cuba, Bouygues has more projects than in the Dominical Republic, leading to the conclusion that a considerable part of the 219 million Euros in annual sales for that decade corresponds to Cuba, where, according to BBI’s own reports, the company has contributed aid for the victims of natural phenomena such as hurricanes and the like.
According to the annual reports filed between 2008 and 2010. Bouygues helped to rebuild some 13,000 houses after several meteorological events, an influx of capital that Cuba received from several French catastrophic-aid institutions. As far as we have been able to document, part of those funds was deposited directly from within Cuba to Banco Financiero Internacional, from accounts 0300000005027988 and 0300000005032562, belonging to Gaviota S.A.’s jobs pool, and into accounts 300000005027988 and 0300000005032562, part of the code groups known as Fondos FAR (Armed Forces Funds).
According to a source from Banco Financiero Internacional who informed us on condition of anonymity: “The other part of the funds was transferred to BFI and to the same Fondos FAR (Armed Forces Funds) from banks in Canada, France and Italy. Our source affirms that part of those deposits were later transferred to accounts like Habanos S.A. (US$ 1.2 million) which has its own employment agency (See Addendum at the end of this report) and to the so-called Tarea Vida/Life Task (US$ 2 million) belonging to the Flora & Fauna corporate group. Among the principal directors of Habanos S.A. we find Ernesto Machado, the son of the Cuban Communist Party’s second secretary, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, and Leopoldo Cintra Gonzalez, the son of the present Armed Forces minister; Flora & Fauna is managed by the family of commander Guillermo Garcia Frias. This, in spite of the fact that the deposits and incomes had the initial purpose of rebuilding homes that were destroyed by the hurricanes.
According to another source at BBI, the remaining 8.2 million Euros deposited between 2008 and 2011, the last deposit to Fondos FAR reported, was kept in those account until December 2014 when under the authority of Disposition number 2, it began to move all money in Fondos FAR for the likely purpose of settling the foreign debt which, at that time had reached its present increment rate of US$ 990 million per year (conclusion reached by comparing data from CIA WORLD FACTBOOK and Cuba’s Central Bank).
In December 2012, the foreign debt had reached 22.5 billion, and by 2018 it had reached US$ 28 billion, in spite of successive debt forgiveness from creditors such as Russia (2014), the Paris Club, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay (2015), Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Spain and other European countries (2016) (See Note 1 at the end of this report).
That same source at BFI – one of its directors- asserts: “I don’t know if the money for the rebuilding of homes was withdrawn from other funds, but they did not come from BFI. Neither was it withdrawn from the special account authorized to receive foreign donations when the tornado occurred (0300000005093523), account that is yet to be touched, the money is there, intact, and we are talking about US$ 2 million (…) (From the previous funds) a transfer was made to the Tarea Vida funds, and then after 2015, it was earmarked to paying the foreign debt; not a single dollar was used in the reconstruction of homes.”
No official news reports in Cuba have even mentioned such a considerable contribution on the part of Bouygues or the French government for rebuilding homes in Cuba; however, the company has registered this contribution, as evidenced by its reports which are available on the Internet.
It’s also affirmed in these documents that starting in 2009 until today, the French group has trained Cuban workers and specialists as part of a training program it has coordinated with the ministries of Education and Higher Education in the island, where hundreds of Cubans have been trained. Perhaps these are the same workers that have been marketed as cheap labor through the over 20 construction brigades in Africa, Asia or closer, like The Bahamas and Venezuela, by companies like Gaviota S.A., Almest and UNECA (Union Nacional de Empresas Constructoras del Caribe S.A./United National Construction Companies of the Caribbean).
Until 2914, BBI reported 3,220 Cuban employees, mainly in the construction of hotels in Cuba, a number that allows us to estimate the considerable profits that Cuban employment agencies make.
Bouygues Trains Them and Cuba Markets Them
Proof that the hundred or so workers and specialists that Bouygues Bâtiment International in Cuba are not employed in the work that the French group is doing in the island, but instead as workforce marketed abroad by corporate groups created by the Cuban government such as PALCO, the Council of Ministers, or UNECA, or the Ministry of Construction, is that the Bouygues Group itself was forced to retain more than 200 Indian and Pakistani workers in late 2015. This caused a major scandal when independent and foreign press outlets made the hiring public.
The Cuban government justified Bouygues group alleging a workforce drain toward the private sector as well as a shortage of qualified projects, but the truth is that BBI’s economic reports speak of the creation of training centers prior to those other agreements as well as the existence of at least 400 specialists on its payroll.
CubaNet consulted Santiago Gonzalez, a former officer of UNECA corporation (which belongs to the Construction Ministry). He has contradicted the Cuban government’s version and attests to how the specialized workforce retained by the corporation he worked for between 1998 and 2014 came mostly from the training courses taught by BBI personnel.
“Some of them were technicians and workers from our own brigades that we sent to the training sessions, and others we tapped from our own labor pool, always looking for the most qualified. Those came from the Bouygues training,” confirms Gonzalez.
The truth is that around the same time that Bouygues was hiring Indian workers to finish construction of Hotel Manzana Kempinski, the most luxurious hotel in Havana, UNECA and the corporation Quality Cuba –both belonging to the Construction Ministry- were sending contingents of workers hired under more exploitative agreements than those used for marketing doctors (by Comercializadora de Servicios Medicos de Cuba, SMC), establishing salaries that amounted to 2% or 3% of the amount foreign governments were actually paying Cuba for the salary of each Cuban worker.
To this day, UNECA keeps contracts with countries like South Africa, with the ministries of Public Works and Housing in particular; with Mozambique in road infrastructure projects; in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Namibia, among others.
Employment Agencies, a Lucrative Business
Although what is known today as ACOREC (Agency for Contracting Commercial Offices) was created by Fidel Castro on October 22, 1991, its activities became legal on Armed Forces Day as part of the restructuring of its military corporate system. Thus, it was born under the protection of public deed 694/91 of the Ministry of Justice, Second Commercial Registry of Havana, first registration of December 2, 1991). It was born, also, out of the need to control the workforce that the first foreign businessmen -mostly Spaniards- needed, those businessmen who heeded the Cuban leader’s call when the old ship of the Cuban revolution started to capsize as a result of the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe.
Similar corporations emerged between 1991 and 2015, almost all of them subordinate to the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior; others to the ministries of Public Health and Construction. But it was not until 2015 the Ministry of Labor established regulations for all of them, taking into account the need to regulate most of all each company’s sources of income and to centralize and manage the bank accounts through Banco Financiero International and Fondos FAR. In compliance with Disposition number 2, issued by the president of the Council of State in December 2015.
For that purpose, not only would the management of Banco Financiero Internacional, formerly in the hands of Cuba’s Central Bank, be transferred later to the Armed Forces and its Corporate Management Group (GAESA), but also Resolution number 20 of 2015 from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare would be issued to make it amply clear what rules Cuban workers would be tied to when retained by a foreign company.
Article 3 of the resolution established for the first time that “Cuban citizens, foreigners and persons without citizenship that reside permanently in Cuba can only work in foreign companies if they have established a priori their working relationship with the corresponding Cuban employment agency.” This had not been made clear in the previous Law Decree No. 55 dated April 23, 1982 about the hiring of personnel by foreign companies issued by the then State Labor Committee and not a ministry, just like it wasn’t stated so strictly by Resolution number 33 dated May 30, 2007 of the same government entity.
Also approved in 2015 in Resolution number 20, was the so-called Code of Conduct for workers retained by foreign companies, through which those workers are subject to the disposition of the employing company in every aspect, as well as being obligated to informing every kind of information to the Cuban state employment agency about the company for which he or she works, thus turning the worker into a virtual informant, an infiltrated agent of the state agency.
In fact, Article 1 of the Code of Conduct establishes that above his/her duties as worker, he/she must “Defend the interests of socialist society. To that end, he/she will make prevalent in his/her performance a principled attitude and his/her condition of revolutionary, making sure that the political, economic and social interests of our nation are preserved”. In Article 14 it is made clear that the worker must comply with his/her duty “to inform the employment agency immediately any violations or infractions of legal norms in his place of employment,” or, as stated in Article 15: “Comply in a timely fashion, with objectivity and loyalty, his/her duty to deliver whatever information is asked of him/her by the Employment Agency and to be present at any hearings where the Agency and other qualified entities may summon him/her.”
For all practical purposes, this is a police code, abusive in terms of power and ideological control, but also one that makes royalties and perks from employment illegal, thus making the worker sell his/her manpower for the lowest compensation while the state employment agency keeps for itself more than 95% of the money that the foreign companies deposit at Banco Financiero Internacional for his/her salary.
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