Friday, March 18, 2005

Castro is pissed at Forbes

Most people would be flattered if Forbes magazine estimated their personal fortune at US$550 million - but Cuban President Fidel Castro is not, apparently, one of them.

Cuba's embassy in Mexico issued a stinging rebuke on Wednesday of the Forbes article without mentioning the magazine by name, calling it "a repugnant example of a campaign of lies'' by "an American magazine of decaying credibility.''

"It is a clumsy slander and a repugnant example of a campaign of lies perpetrated in the United States with the sole aim of justifying the criminal blockade of Cuba,'' the embassy said in a press statement.

Embassy officials could not immediately explain why the statement was released in Mexico, rather than in Havana, the Cuban capital.

In a story published Thursday about the fortunes of rulers and heads-of-state, Forbes estimated the communist leader's net worth at US$550 million, but acknowledged "these estimates are more art than science.''

"In the past, we have relied on a percentage of Cuba's gross domestic product to estimate Fidel Castro's fortune,'' the article stated.

"This year we have used more traditional valuation methods, comparing state-owned assets Castro is assumed to control with comparable publicly traded companies.''

The magazine said Castro "derives his fortune from a web of state-owned businesses,'' including a convention center and retail and pharmaceutical businesses.

The embassy denied that, saying "income from Cuban state-owned companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people, to whom they belong.''

While the embassy did not dispute Forbes' estimate that Castro "travels exclusively in a convoy of black Mercedes-Benzes, it claimed Cuba was the only country in Latin America to fight inequality.