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Issue 47- May 2009


Cuba Facts
is an ongoing series of succinct fact sheets on various topics, including, but not limited to, political structure, health, economy, education, nutrition, labor, business, foreign investment, and demographics, published and updated on a regular basis by the Cuba Transition Project staff.




Creditors (Country)
Debt (in US$)
Venezuela (1)
$11.367 billion
Spain (2)
$3.200 billion
China (3)
$3.170 billion
Japan (4)
$2.775 billion
Argentina (5)
$1.967 billion
France (6)
$1.856 billion
Romania (7)
$1.236 billion
Russia (post-Soviet) (8)
$1.149 billion
Iran (9)
$656 million
Panama (10)
$425 million
Germany (11)
$411 million
Mexico (12)
$400 million
Italy (13)
$371 million
Brazil (14)
$350 million
United Kingdom (15)
$342 million
Vietnam (16)
$297 million
Czech Republic (17)
$278 million
Belgium (18)
$231 million
Netherlands (19)
$149 million
Austria (20)
$95 million
Canada (21)
$94 million
Trinidad & Tobago (22)
$30 million
Uruguay (23)
$30 million
Sweden (24)
$26 million
Denmark (25)
$14 million
Portugal (26)
$8 million
Switzerland (27)
$3 million
Undisclosed Foreign Financing (28)
$751 million
$31.681 billion




    Creditors (Country)
    Debt (in Transferable Rubles)
    Russia (Soviet-era) (29)
    20.848 billion
    Hungary (30)
    200 million
    Poland (31)
    70 million
    21.118 billion


    As of the end of 2008, Cuba’s total known foreign debts in convertible (hard) currencies had grown to nearly US$31.7 billion from a previous estimate of US$23.8 billion at the end of 2007. The depreciation of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis the euro, Japanese yen, and Canadian dollar accounted in part for the substantial increase of the debt in recent years. More so, new borrowing by the Cuban government and state-owned enterprises has added billions of dollars to the country’s already large public debt, much of it in default, at a rate that seems unsustainable. Long-term financing, provided through a series of strategic cooperation accords with the Chávez administration, has enabled the island to import more than 90,000 bpd of Venezuelan petroleum and refined fuels at an estimated additional burden of US$3.4 billion to the island’s national debt in 2008 alone. Total Cuban obligations to Caracas now exceed US$11 billion.

    Other political allies of Cuba, such as China, Iran, and Vietnam, have collectively extended more than US$2.5 billion in new bilateral commercial credit, backed by their respective governments, in recent years. European, Japanese, and Latin American lenders and suppliers also continue to offer US$2 to $3 billion annually in short to medium-term financing either directly to Cuban clients or to foreign businesses operating in, or trading with, Cuba. Regarding its non-convertible debt originating in the Soviet era, the Cuban government does not acknowledge demands by Moscow or other former trading partners in Central and Eastern Europe, claims amounting to over 20 billion transferable rubles. Havana has likewise refused to service its historic long-term debt, originally to Western European, Argentinean, and Japanese creditors and subsequently absorbed by their respective governments, ever since Fidel Castro declared a moratorium on foreign debt repayment in 1986 and called on other borrower nations to follow Cuba’s lead. Certain former socialist trading bloc nations, among them the Czech Republic and Romania, have converted their Soviet-era transferable ruble claims against Havana into convertible euro-denominated debt, suggesting that such creditor governments may seek compensation at a later date.




1. Includes an estimated US$3.532 billion in long-term financing and/or unpaid oil deliveries from late 2000 through 2005; approximately US$2.003 billion in deferred payments on an estimated 98,000 bpd (at a market value of US$56 per barrel) in 2006; an estimated $2.254 billion for 98,000 bpd of Venezuelan oil products in 2007 (based on $63/barrel market price for Venezuelan crude); and a projected $3.358 billion in 2008 for 92,000 bpd of Venezuelan oil and refined products (on the basis of $100/barrel average market price for Venezuelan crude in 2008). The figure also encompasses $220 million in trade financing provided to Cuba in 2006 by Venezuela’s state-run export bank, Banco de Comercio Exterior (Bancoex), for non-oil imports from Venezuelan suppliers. (Cf. Alexei Barrionuevo and José de Córdoba, “For Aging Castro, Chavez Emerges as a Vital Crutch,” The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2004; Marianna Párraga, "Cuba acumula deuda de US$891 millones con Venezuela," Caracas, El Universal, January 14, 2004; M. Párraga, “Cuba recibe despachos adicionales de petróleo,” Caracas, El Universal, February 22, 2005,; M. Párraga, “Petrocaribe captará inversión del holding,” Caracas, El Universal, July 2, 2005,; Danna Harman, “Chavez seeks influence with oil diplomacy,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 2005,; Guillermo Parra-Bernal, “Castro’s Doctors-for-Oil Swap with Chavez Bolsters Bush’s Foes,” Bloomberg, Oct. 30, 2006,
“Márquez: 120 empresas de Venezuela exportan sus productos a Cuba,” Caracas, El Universal, October 24, 2006; Reuters, “Cuba y Venezuela buscan mejorar recepción refinería Cienfuegos,” Havana, 15 October 2008.) For a higher valuation of Venezuelan oil exports to (and financing for) Cuba, see Jorge Piñón, “Venezuela Oil Subsidies to Cuba Surpassed $3 Billion in 2006,” Cuba Facts, Cuba Transition Project, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, August 2007,

2. Figure includes approximately 1.881 billion euros in public long-term debt (largely trade credits in default, two-thirds of which were issued prior to 1986), including the accumulated interest on arrears; 180 million euros in recent medium-term commercial credit provided directly by suppliers (primarily Basque industrial firms); and US$426 million in current private financing by Spanish banks. Cf. Miguel González, “España estudia un plan de apoyo a Cuba de casi 400 millones,” El País (Madrid), October 15, 2008,
; EFE, “Empresas españolas negocian contratos en Cuba por 180 millones de euros,” Havana, May 5, 2006; BIS Sept. 2008. See also “El Gobierno busca la manera de perdonar de la deuda externa a Cuba,” Negocio (Madrid), October 2, 2007; Observatorio de la Deuda en la Globalización, “Deudores del Estado Español,” (accessed Oct. 2008); I. J. Domingo, “Cuba busca elevar su capacidad financiera con canje de deuda por inversión española,” Expansión, Madrid, November 18, 2002.

3. In 2006, Beijing opened a US$1.8 billion revolving credit line for Havana (backed by China’s Sinosure) to finance both short and longer-term trade between Chinese firms and Cuban state-owned enterprises. The credit line has enabled the Cuban government to begin to rebuild and expand its public transportation infrastructure with the purchase of Chinese-made buses, locomotives, and other mass transport equipment and spare parts. In addition to the current US$1.8 billion trade credit, the total known debt includes approximately $1.370 billion in earlier medium and long-term obligations. Cf. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, The Cuban Economy Today: Salvation or Damnation? (Cuba Transition Project, Univ. of Miami, 2005) p. 11; Mark Frank, “China’s Cuba business takes big leap forward,” Havana, Reuters, April 11, 2001 (which cites a previous US$210 loan granted in 2000); BBC News, “China to lend Cuba $400m,” Havana, April 13, 2001; “China Offer 400 Million Dollars in Loans to Cuba,” Beijing, People’s Daily, April 14, 2001. Feliberto Carrié, “El Banco de Shanghai concede a Cuba un crédito por 72 millones de dólares para la construcción de un hotel,” Europa Press, Havana, October 4, 2002; Marc Frank, “Trade with China helps Cuba to move up a gear,” Financial Times, March 8, 2006; Julio A. Díaz Vázquez, “Notas acerca de las relaciones: China-Cuba,” El Economista de Cuba, August 1, 2008,

4. Cuba’s long-term debt to Japan is composed of approximately 245.86 billion yen in banking, commercial, and government-to-government, much of which originated in the 1970s and 1980s. More recent debt consists of some US$247 million (25.5 billion yen) in commercial credit in default and now owed to Japan’s government-backed trade insurer, NEXI, and a reported US$112 million in short-term lending to Cuba by Japanese banks as of March 2008. In 1998, and again in 2002 in order to avoid default, Cuba refinanced 100 billion yen in commercial debt with 182 Japanese suppliers. (Cf. Dalia Acosta, “Cuba-Japan: Brilliant Coup Behind Paris Club’s Back,” Inter Press Service, Havana, March 26, 1998, citing official Japanese sources and Cuba’s Central Bank president Francisco Soberón.) A separate accord, signed in 1999, allowed Havana to reschedule its short-term debt of 12 billion yen (some US$109 million) to the Japanese government. According to an anonymous Japanese diplomat cited by the foreign press in Cuba, in 2004 the Cuban government reportedly made a payment of US$50 million toward the principal of its aforementioned short-term debt with Tokyo. However, mounting financial pressures forced the Cuban government to request a restructuring of recent commercial debt (Cf. Kyodo/Associated Press, “Japan accepts terms for deferring Cuba’s debt repayment,” Havana, November 24, 1999; Marc Frank, “Cuba repays some official debt as economy picks up,” Reuters, Havana, April 26, 2004; EFE, “) As of March 2008, the Basel, Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements reported US$112 million in current, short-term financing to Cuba by Japanese banks. (Cf. Bank for International Settlements, “BIS Consolidated Banking Statistics,” Provisional Data, Second Quarter 2007, October 2007,
, hereinafter “BIS October 2007”).

5. See Reuters, “Cuba, Argentina restore full ties, discuss debt,” Havana, October 13, 2003. The Cuban government has requested 75% forgiveness, as well as partial repayment in kind on the remainder, of its bilateral debt with Buenos Aires dating from the 1970s and early 1980s. (See Natasha Niebieskikwiat, “Cuba busca una quita del 75% de su deuda con la Argentina,” Clarín, Buenos Aires, October 14, 2003.) A first official visit by Argentina’s president Nestor Kirchner to Havana was originally scheduled to take place in January 2005, but has been indefinitely postponed along with any arrangement on the Cuban debt.

6. Long-term Cuban debt claimed by the government of France stands at approximately 689 million euros. (Cf. French Senate report, “Principales créances et dettes globales et APD de la France sur les Etats étrangers au 31 décembre 2003,” in Bienvenue au Sénat, “Project de loi de finances pour 2005,” The total figure also encompasses a separate short-term debt of at least US$150 million in
COFACE-secured trade financing in default (Cf. French Economic Mission in Havana, “Les échanges comerciaux entre la France et Cuba en 2006,” May 2007, Lastly, the total known debt includes US$756 million in short-term financing provided by French banks as of the end of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, September 2008).

7. Romania has revalued its Soviet-era claims (unpaid trade credits issued prior to 1990, plus interest to date) against Cuba into hard currency (euro) debt, perhaps signaling its intention to seek compensation from the Cuban government. As of the end of 2006, Bucharest’s central bank reported that Cuba owed the country 950 million euros, or about US$1.236 billion, making Romania one of the island’s top creditors. Cf. National Bank of Romania, Balance of Payments, 2006, p. 39, (accessed Oct. 2008).

8. Figure includes approximately US$166 million in unpaid trade financing converted to long-term (10-year) government-to-government debt (“Russia grants $355mln loan to Fidel Castro,” Kommersant, Sept. 30, 2006); a US$85-million loan signed in 2004, repayable over nine years, in order to finance the sale of two Il-96-300 executive aircraft for use by Fidel Castro and the senior Cuban leadership (Cf. MosNews, “Cuba to buy VIP Russian jets for $100M,” Moscow, July 13, 2004); a $213 loan for five additional aircraft contracted in 2006 (Sergey Ryzhkin, “Russian Aircraft Industry to Supply Cuba,” Kommersant, April 11, 2006; a new $355 million credit line to finance additional transportation and industrial equipment and joint ventures with Russian firms in Cuba (MosNews, “Russia Grants $355M Credit to Cuba, Restructures Recent Debts,” Moscow, September 29, 2006); and a judgment of US$330 million won by Russia’s International Investment Bank against the Cuban central bank for Soviet-era debts to the Soviet Union, now claimed by Russia (“Bank Wins $330 Mill. In Suit v. Cuba,” Kommersant (Moscow), Sept. 4, 2008,

9. IRNA, “Iran to grant euro 200m loan to Cuba,” Madrid, June 16, 2007. In April 2006, Tehran agreed to grant Cuba a 200-million euro-denominated credit line for trade and investment financing through the state-run Iran Exports Promotion Bank. Subsequently, in June 2008, Iran more than doubled its credit line for Cuba to 500 million euros. Cf. Fars News Agency, “Iran, Cuba Sign Trade MoU,” Tehran, June 20, 2008,; IRNA, “Iran, Cuba sign investment, trade MoU,” Tehran, April 24, 2006.

10. In 2003, Panamanian trading companies based in the Colon Free Zone exported more than US$208 million in primarily third-country goods to Cuba. Suppliers and banks, including subsidiaries of foreign-based institutions, at the time reported Cuban state-owned enterprises to owe over US$200 million in financed purchases. In March 2008, the new Panamanian ambassador in Havana disclosed to the press that Cuba had amassed a commercial debt with his country of US$425 million (Cf. Reuters, “Cuba y Panama multiplicand comercio hasta 500 mlns dlrs,” Havana, March 25, 2008; Dustin Guerra, “Cubanos adeudan 200 millones de dólares a ZLC,” Panama, La Prensa, August 25, 2004).

11. In May 2000, Cuba and Germany signed a debt restructuring agreement, including both former East as well as West German claims, for repayment of 230 million German marks (valued at US$115 million). Cf. EFE, “Berlín y La Habana firman acuerdo renegociación de deuda,” Berlin, May 26, 2000. See also German Federal Foreign Office, “Cuba,”
. In addition, the figure includes US$296 million in short-term financing to Cuba by German banks as of the end of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, October 2008).

12. Mexico’s export financing bank, Bancomext, recovered $35 million in 2006 through litigation in European courts in an ongoing dispute with the Cuban government over $554.9 million in default. The remaining debt has been renegotiated in 2008 and currently stands at approximately $400 million. Cf. Antonio Castellanos and Susan González, “Restructuran México y Cuba la deuda de 400 mdd con Bancomext,” La Jornada (Mexico), February 18, 2008; “Congela México cuentas bancarias de Cuba en Europa,” Invertia, September 12, 2007; Miriam Posada Garcia, “Recuperó Bancomext 35mdd que adeudaba Banco Nacional de Cuba,” La Jornada (Mexico), May 3, 2006,

13. Italian claims consist of approximately 227 million euros owed by Cuba to SACE (Italy’s government-backed trade financing agency) as per most recent data disclosed by SACE. In addition, Italy-based banks reported US$69 million in current short-term loans to Cuba as of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Sept. 2008).

14. See Mireya Castañeda, “Cuba-Brazil cooperation diversifies,” Havana, Granma Internacional, September 29, 2003, [].
Cuba’s obligations in the United Kingdom include a 100-million pound medium-term debt to government-backed Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) and 90 million pounds to British companies (Cf. Reuters, “UK to reopen Cuba credit cover after debt deal,” London, September 23, 1999. UK-based banks also reported US$16 million in current short-term financing to Cuba as of March 2008 (BIS, Sept. 2008).

15. Cuba’s obligations in the United Kingdom include a 100-million pound medium-term debt to government-backed Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) and 90 million pounds to British companies (Cf. Reuters, “UK to reopen Cuba credit cover after debt deal,” London, September 23, 1999. UK-based banks also reported US$16 million in current short-term financing to Cuba as of March 2008 (BIS, Sept. 2008).

16. Vietnam supplies the bulk of Cuba’s imported rice with payment terms of 450 to 540 days, either interest-free or financed at very low rates. The value of Vietnamese commercial credit for Cuba corresponds only to transactions in the first half of 2008 for approximately 337,000 tons of rice at US$882 per ton. See Thoi Bao Kinh Te, “Rice export targeted at 4.5m tones in 2008,” Vietnam, Intellasia, August 27, 2008,; Hedelberto López Blanch, “Cuba y Viet Nam: Intercambios comerciales multifacéticos,” Opciones, March 11, 2005; Vietnam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Vietnamese, Cuban businesses meet,” (November 9, 2004); Reuters, “Vietnam and Cuba cement ties with trade agreement,” Havana, October 29, 2002.

17. Cuba’s debt to the former Czechoslovakia, and assumed by the Czech Republic, has been reported in convertible currency [5.8 billion Czech korunas] and currently valued at 214 million euros. (Cf. Pablo Alfonso, “Crisis checa puede estar cerca del fin,” El Nuevo Herald, January 31, 2001.) See also Czech News Agency, “Foreign Countries Owe Czech Rep. KC25BN,” Prague, September 18, 2006; EFE, “Cuba es el principal país deudor de la República Checa,” Prague, October 29, 2007.

18. The Cuban and Belgian governments negotiated a restructuring accord in 2000 on the short-term portion (17.35 million euros) of Havana’s 171-million euro debt to Brussels. (Cf. EFE, “Bruselas y La Habana renegocian deuda bilateral,” Brussels, March 30, 2000) The remaining long-term debt is estimated at 154 million euros, currently about US$200 million. In addition, Belgian banks held US$31 million in short-term Cuban debt as of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, Sept. 2008).

19. The debt represents short-term financing provided to Cuba by Netherlands-based banking institutions as of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, Sept. 2008).

20. The debt represents current short-term financing provided by Austria-based banks as of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, Sept. 2008).

21. Cuba’s official commercial debt in arrears to the Canadian government’s export financing agency, Export Development Canada (EDC), stood at C$114 million (US$94 million) as of December 2005. Cf. Canadian govt.’s Cuba Fact Sheet, December 2005 .BIS statistics reveal no current short-term financing to Cuba by Canada-based banks as of the end of March 2008 (BIS Quarterly Review, September 2008).

22. Trinidad-based Republic Bank Ltd. is financing about US$30 million a year in imports for Cuban state-owned enterprises. Cf. Larry Luxner, “Trinidad & Tobago seeks to expand links with Cuba,” CubaNews, October 2003, p. 10.

23. As reported by the press, Cuba has had a longstanding debt of US$30 million with Uruguay. There is no evidence available that the debt has been settled or forgiven by Uruguay. Cf. “Cuba desafía a Uruguay a romper relaciones diplomáticas,” Notimex, Havana, April 23, 2002.

24. Figure represents current short-term lending by Sweden-based banks as of March 2008 (Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, September 2008).

25. Commercial debt of 78,550, 851 DKR (currently valued at US$14 million) from transactions in the early 1980s, subsequently rescheduled by the Danish government in 1983, and in default since 1986 after Castro declared a moratorium on Cuban foreign debt repayment. Cf. UN Treaties No. 21904, Cuba and Denmark, “Agreement concerning the rescheduling of debts,” Copenhagen, April 8, 1983,

26. Portugal-based banks had issued $8 million in financing to Cuba as of March 2008. Cf. BIS Quarterly Review, September 2008.

27. As of June 2007, BIS statistics reveal US$4 million in current short-term financing to the Cuban government by Swiss lenders (Cf. BIS October 2007).

28. Figure represents other current short-term financing to Cuba as of June 2007 by banks of non-disclosed nationality (Cf. BIS October 2007).

29. Debt owed in transferable rubles to the former USSR and now assumed by Russia. No repayment accords have been reached with Russia or any other former communist state in Eastern Europe. In response to Moscow’s insistence on transferable-ruble debt negotiations with Havana in the context of the island’s hard-currency debts to other Paris Club creditors, the Cuban government has refused to countenance any multilateral arrangements and presented claims for damages due to defunct accords with the former Soviet Union. Cf. “The Infamous Paragraph,” (official editorial by the Cuban government on disputes, including the bilateral debt, with the Russian government), Havana, Granma Internacional English ed., October 27, 2001,
. Cuba’s total Soviet-era transferable ruble debts to Russia and Eastern European states have been estimated at US$26.7 billion. Cf. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Market, Socialist and Mixed Economies: Comparative Policy and Performance: Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), pp. 380-381. See also Oscar Espinosa Chepe, “Crece la deuda externa cubana,” Cubanet, Havana, February 6, 2003,

30. As per Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, “Hungary Seeks Closer Ties with Latin America,” Budapest, May 8, 1997. Cf.

31. Debt figure provided upon request by Poland’s embassy in Havana.



* This report was prepared by Hans de Salas del Valle, Research Associate, Cuba Transition Project, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.


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