Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba ex-minister Roca-Iglesias jailed for corruption

Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, in discussion at the 2011 Communist Party congress in Havana
Image caption The Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, have different visions for the future of Cuba

A former Cuban government minister, Alejandro Roca-Iglesias, has been jailed for 15 years at the end of a high-profile anti-corruption trial.

His co-defendant, Chilean businessman Max Marambio - a close friend of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro - was jailed in absentia for 20 years.

It is the first such corruption case in communist Cuba to end with a government minister being jailed.

The former food industry minister, 75, was sacked in 2009 after a long career.

The official Communist Party newspaper, Granma, said the judges had received compelling evidence linking the two convicted men to serious cases of corruption.

Fall from grace

During the trial, which was held behind closed doors, the court heard how both men worked together to commit fraud in the food sector.

The Chilean entrepreneur, Max Marambio, first rose to prominence as a bodyguard for the deposed Chilean President Salvador Allende.

However, he fled into exile in Cuba where he built up a food empire jointly with the Cuban state.

Both Mr Marambio and Mr Roca fell from grace soon after President Raul Castro took over from his ailing brother, Fidel Castro in 2006.

The newly appointed Cuban leader started an economic reform programme that targeted inefficiences, waste and corruption inside the state apparatus.

The two defendants sentenced by the Havana court are among the most senior figures to have been penalised in an ongoing major anti-corruption drive.

However, it is not the first time a government minister has fallen from grace in Cuba.

In a major cabinet reshuffle in 1989/90 an interior minister was given a jail sentence for alleged ties to Colombian drug-traffickers.

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