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Latin America

Cuba shuts down fast-growing accounting cooperative in blow to private sector

Scenius, which provides accounting and business consulting services, will have until Dec. 31 to completely liquidate, the cooperative's founder and director Luis Duenas.
7 Ago 2017 – 12:41 PM EDT

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban authorities have ordered the closure of one of the island's fastest-growing cooperatives, days after announcing that they would stop issuing new permits for some private enterprise.

Scenius, which provides accounting and business consulting services, will have until Dec. 31 to completely liquidate, the cooperative's founder and director Luis Duenas told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Duenas said the Ministry of Finances and Prices told him the decision to close Scenius was "based on an analysis of our social purpose, or of the activities that we have approved."

Duenas called the decision an "error" that has no place in the policy of economic opening announced by Cuban officials.

On Tuesday, Cuba's government said it would suspend the issuance of permits for a range of occupations and ventures, including restaurants and renting out rooms in private homes.

The suspension included the growing field of private teachers as well as street vendors of agricultural products, dressmakers and the relatively recent profession of real estate broker. The announcement did not say when the issuing of permits would resume and said that enterprises already in operation can continue.

The Cuban government said on Monday the freeze would not last years, and was required to adopt new measures to "perfect" regulations and correct abuses.

President Raul Castro expanded an opening of the economy to private-sector employment in 200 categories of business in 2010. The government says nearly 570,000 people are employed in the enterprises, including hundreds of restaurants and guest houses. It later also legalized nonagricultural cooperatives.

Both recent moves have created fears that Cuba is putting the brakes on plans to reform its centrally planned economy, though officials say the country is not going back on its economic opening.

"Currently this movement of entrepreneurs generates 17.8 percent of the gross income of the economy and places it as a necessary and essential force in the development of the country," according to Emilio Morales, an expert on the Cuban economy in Miami and founder of Havana Consulting.

Duenas regretted that Scenius' closing occurred days after the package of restrictions on independent work.

"There are many ways to do things, timing is very important, and the country is greatly affected by these things," Duenas said. Scenius General Director Alfonso Larrea added on Facebook that the order had destroyed the "faith of 300 cooperativists ... and thousands of Cubans who believed it was possible to dream."

Scenius began in January 2015 with two or three partners and in two years had more than 200. All its 70 clients are state-owned enterprises or business groups in agriculture, industry and communications.

According to official figures, there are more than 400 non-agricultural cooperatives in Cuba.

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