Published Friday, August 13, 1999, in the Miami Herald

Expert offers assessment of Cuban economy

Herald Staff Writer

Cuba's economy is stagnant and faces even harder times ahead, but predictions of a looming crisis may be overdone, the chief economics expert at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana said Thursday.

``There is no strong evidence that Cuba will not be able to meet its [foreign debt] obligations as predicted,'' said Gary Maybarduk, who just completed a two-year stint as chief economics officer at the U.S. Intrests Section in Havana. His comments came at the opening session of the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy being held at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

On the political front, Cuba remains ``locked in a pre-transition stage,'' said Richard Nuccio, the Clinton administration's former Cuba advisor.

President Fidel Castro's government has not accepted any of the significant economic reforms long ago put in place by the Chinese and Vietnamese governments, and wields more control of the Cuban economy than even the Polish and Hungarian governments while still under Communist rule, Nuccio said.

``The longer this goes on the more likely it will be that the Cuban people will suffer violence'' when a post-Castro transition begins, Nuccio concluded.

Copyright 1999 Miami Herald