Fidel calls Forbes Magazine and US "slanderers and liars"

Campaign News | Thursday, 25 May 2006

They must apologise for what they have said, says Cuban leader

Havana 24 May: Cuban President Fidel Castro has branded the US government and Forbes magazine as "liars and slanderers," and demanded an apology for saying he had amassed a personal wealth of $900 million.

"They have to ask for an apology of the world public opinion for their lies against the Cuban revolution. They cannot remain silent. They must speak up," Castro told a live radio and television broadcast on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Forbes said Castro after 47 years in power had become the seventh wealthiest ruler in the world, claiming he had stashed away $900 million by skimming profits from a Havana convention center, retail conglomerate Cimex and vaccine and pharmaceutical products firm Medicuba.

In response Castro, who turns 80 in August, a day later vowed to resign from office "if they prove that I have an account abroad."

"We are waiting for the liars and slanderers to respond," he said late on Wednesday.

"But weeks have gone by and they haven't uttered a word.

"They've painted themselves into a corner," he said, adding that world opinion at least required an explanation for "having been duped for so long."

Appearing with Castro on television, British MP George Galloway said that Cubans were the only people in the entire world whose leader was penniless.,00050001.htm

Fidel's fortune: Seeing through the lies

Please, Not Fidel Castro’s Fortune Again!

By Pascual Serrano.

May 15, 2006, 14:46

Once again Forbes magazine has included the Cuban president in the list of what they call the richest “kings, queens and dictators." Of course, all the media enthusiastically echoed this information, released every year.

If we search in Google News, we’ll see that more than a hundred websites report, not on the list of millionaire rulers, but on Fidel Castro’s presence in the list, despite his position is not the first one, but the seventh. One can presume that if the Cuban president would not be in this inventory, the wealth of these people wouldn’t be breaking news.

The magazine reports that Castro’s fortune reached 900 million dollars this year, almost double the 550 millions in 2005. But the most important is to see how Forbes calculated Castro's money. In the website they explained: "For another controversial dictator, Fidel Castro, we assume he has economic control over a web of state-owned companies, including El Palacio de Convenciones, a convention center near Havana; Cimex, retail conglomerate; and Medicuba, which sells vaccines and other pharmaceuticals produced in Cuba.".[1] Of course the president of Cuba has the control of the governmental companies, just like in every other country. But this time Forbes has varied its last year thesis, when they claimed that the companies were owned by Castro.

It continues: "Former Cuban officials insist Castro, who travels exclusively in a fleet of black Mercedes, has skimmed profits from these outfits for years." All the Cubans know that Castro rides in a twenty-year-old black Mercedes, accompanied by cars of his guard, like the rest of the presidents, especially those that the US has attempted to assassinate. In most of the countries all the ministers and many managers have a Mercedes, and quite less old than Castro’s.

The reasoning about former officials saying that he "has skimmed profits from these outfits" as evidence of his wealth, is a worthless empty argument. His “fortune” certainly doesn’t come from the profits of the Palacio de Convenciones, a centre where public acts are held, and where the single money circulating is the Cuban peso, in case one wants to buy a one peso [2] coffee in the bar. As for Medicuba and Cimex -as I pointed out last year replying the same Forbes? argument-, both are public companies that market national products. There is not any registration or document establishing that these companies belong to the president, all the countries have public companies.

And here comes Forbes’ real challenge, How much has the president kept for himself? This is the way they calculated it: "To come up with a net worth figure, we use a discounted cash flow method to value these companies and then assume a portion of that profit stream goes to Castro." That way, instead of 900 millions they could have found twice as much; after all, it was just about imagining the "portion of that profit stream" which they believe “goes to Castro." If they will do the same next year, they’ll probably be able to report that his fortune has doubled.

The report goes on: "To be conservative, we don’t try to estimate any past profits he may have pocketed, though we have heard rumors of large stashes in Swiss bank accounts. Castro, for the record disagrees, insisting his personal net worth is zero." In fact, to prove the existence of his fortune they should have detected money in a bank account in his name, or title deeds accrediting him as owner or usufructuary. Strange millionaire this one, whose jewels, yachts, mansions and holidays skiing or in the beach are invisible.

After analyzing Forbes’ calculation method, it is obvious that they don’t have evidence of money in any bank account, nor properties in his name. Nonetheless, they continue to say that he has 900 million dollars. In 2003, the magazine established Fidel Castro's wealth was about 110 million dollars. They have said before that it was very complicated to estimate these fortunes, so they calculated the Cuban president's personal treasure assuming that a percentage of Cuba's gross domestic product (GDP) was going to his pocket. So simple like that.

The news coverage on the issue was contradictory. Reuters began its report saying that “the Cuban President Fidel Castro got furious when Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at 550 million dollars last year". Several paragraphs later on, the same note said that "Castro had stated that he was considering to suit Forbes after the publication of the list in 2005, and he laughed at the fact that his fortune was very similar to that of the queen of England.” He got furious and laughed at the same time? He made those comments at the Palacio de Convenciones -the same one making him rich- before thousands of Cubans. Indeed, -I was there- he amusedly highlighted that the fortune attributed to him was similar to that of the British Queen, and he added that to take or not any actions against the magazine was up to him.

It looked like Castro was going to overcome Queen Elizabeth this year. But according to the media, neither the Buckingham Palace, nor the crown jewels were considered part of her fortune. On the other hand, Fidel Castro gets 900 millions with the yields of Palacio de Convenciones where only official events are held and the entrance is free of charge.

Fidel challenges US to prove his alleged fortune

HAVANA 15 May - Fidel Castro said on Monday that this month's Forbes Magazine report calling him one of the world's wealthiest rulers was "rubbish" and said he would resign if George Bush could prove that he actually had even a single dollar in a bank account.

The Cuban president made the challange during a special television appearance devoted to knocking down the story.

Fidel spoke live on the island's daily public affairs program Mesa Redonda, or Round Table, which served as an official rebuttal of the Forbes report by the Cuban president and several top officials.

"I've been listening to this wickedness for nearly half a century - I don't pay much attention," Fidel said. "Neither lies nor slander are worth anything."

The Cuban president characterized the accusations as another lie against him and were part of Washington's obsession to destroy the Cuban revolutionary process.

Fidel said that when the new era of ideological struggle began in December of 1999, with the battle for the return of the Elian Gonzalez to his father on the island, right wing sectors in the US tightened Washington's blockade and have done everything possible since then to destabilize Cuba and bring about a US intervention.

He referred to the measures that prohibited banks abroad from handling Cuba money, even if it is destined for humanitarian programmes.

In its May 5 article, Forbes included Fidel in a group of 10 leaders with "lofty positions and vast fortunes." The magazine estimated Castro's personal fortune to be $900 million - nearly double that of the $500 million of Queen Elizabeth II and just under Prince Albert II of Monaco's estimated $1 billion.

The article also refers to rumours of Castro's "large stashes in Swiss bank accounts."

"Why should I defend myself against this rubbish?" Castro said he asked himself before the appearance. Burt it was necessary to illustate the ways in which the US is using the media in an atempt to undermine the Cuban revolution.

The Cuban leader gave the floor to government officials including Central Bank President Francisco Soberon and Culture Minister Abel Prieto, who proceeded to defend Fidel.

"It is absolutely impossible that someone in the upper levels of government - and especially not a leader [like Castro] . . . who is recognized by the Cuban people as an example of humility and self-discipline - could maintain personal accounts abroad," Soberon said.

The bank official called the Forbes article "grotesque slander," and blamed an American press he said is "controlled by the Empire," and the CIA. He said he couldn't think of anything more "vulgar and ridiculous" than the magazine's claims.

In explaining its calculations, Forbes said it assumed Castro has economic control over a web of state-owned companies including a convention center, a retail conglomerate and an enterprise selling vaccines and other pharmaceuticals produced in Cuba.

Soberon, however, said all the money made from those companies is pumped back into the island's economy, in sectors including health, education, science, internal security, national defense and solidarity projects with other countries.

In the article, Forbes acknowledged that the estimates for all the leaders are "more art than science."

Soberon explained how Washington maintains its ties with the owner of the magazine, Steve Forbes, who has a long list of services in favour of the warmongering and reactionary policies of the George W. Bush administration.

The Central Bank chief added that amid a chaotic world, the Cuban Revolution and its leader Fidel Castro were prime examples of honesty.

Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto spoke about the hundreds of examples of flagrant lies against Cuba that are found in the most reactionary circles in the United States.

The head of Cuba's Ministry of Culture quoted cases of the media campaign against the island and referred to articles written by US intellectual Noam Chomsky, who denounced the events in Grenada over 20 years ago where lies became the weapon to make the world believe that Cuba had military intentions against that Caribbean nation.

Another example, said Abel Prieto, is how Washington turned Cuban born terrorist Armando Valladares - who placed bombs in movie theatres - into a so-called political prisoner, later turning the terrorist into the US representative before the UN Human Rights Commission.

Cuba's minister of culture said that Steve Forbes is the owner of the magazine and is one of the magnates who has control over public opinion and is "linked to the fascist group in power in the US and the CIA."

Abel Prieto explained that it is difficult to deceive the world nowadays because many people know the truth about the Cuban Revolution - and few people can be mislead and manipulated against Cuba and its leader Fidel Castro.

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