Speaking to Granma International, Mauro Hueb, director of operations for the Odebrecht Organization in Cuba, explained that whenever the conglomerate arrives to a country for the first time, its mission is to fit into the constructive agenda of this nation, to become a local business and remain there long-term.
Working along these well-defined lines, the Brazilian company, founded over 70 years ago, has been operating for more than four decades in over twenty countries across Latin America and the world, including in the fields of real estate, environmental engineering, power generation and the chemical, petrochemical and agriculture industries.
After introducing itself to Cuba in 2008, Odebrecht began its operations on the island participating in the construction of the Port of Mariel, which was inaugurated in 2014. Just over two weeks ago, the company officially became one of the first authorized to operate in the Mariel Special Zone Development (ZEDM), located in Artemisa, 45 kilometers from Havana.
FROM CONTRACTOR TO AUTHORIZED USER
According to Hueb, Odebrecht considers itself part of the history of the ZEDM and hopes to continue to be. He notes, “We arrived in Mariel when the Zone was just a dream, the credit was arranged with Brazil and moves began on the works, having professionally trained almost eight thousand people recruited from nearby areas.”
As such, according to the director of the South American firm, they consider themselves the first company to set foot in Mariel and it is an honor to now become one of the authorized user companies of the zone they helped to build, together with Cuba.
Characterized by its decentralized structure, providing integrated and innovative solutions, Odebrecht initially approached Cuba to participate in works on the Port of Mariel, at which time it began to asses the strong potential of the country and understand the process of updating the economy.
As Mauro Hueb recalls, the popular consultation, that the country’s economic policy guidelines were submitted to, caught their attention, and they discovered that Cuba was preparing for future economic growth with a correctly supported, solid and serious base.
“There is certainty that, as has happened until now, the ZEDM will attract investors from every region of the world. In fact, in recent months, many leaders and businesspeople from various countries of the world have visited,” he stated.
In addition, Odebrecht’s director in Cuba highlights the number and expertise of Cuban personnel, from laborers and technicians to professionals and administrative staff. “We have been in other countries, but the workers here are impressive because they are highly distinguished, in terms of their educational level, discipline and facility for learning.”
Supported by the fiscal incentives outlined, very clearly, in the Decree Law No. 313, on the Mariel Special Development Zone, Odebrecht will provide services to other international investors arriving at the ZEDM, as the global organization focuses on engineering and construction.
Similarly, he stressed Odebrecht’s potential to offer a complete range of services, with the addition of further activities demanded by customers: financial support, feasibility studies, commissioning and assisted operations.
Regarding other interests within Mariel, Hueb reported that a request has been submitted for a project in the plastics industry, using either entirely foreign capital, or a joint enterprise, an area in which Odebrecht has extensively experience, particularly in the production of resins.
In this regard, investment in the ZEDM for the treatment of industrial waste is being considered, in what would be an environmental initiative to convert waste into water which can be used in factories, Hueb explains.
Given that one of the premises of the country is import substitution, the director highlights that efforts should be directed toward the domestic market, as it would be of great benefit if Cuba were to produce what is consumed locally, while part of this production could be exported to other parts of the region.
According to Hueb, what investors seek is just this: to add value to their products, have a domestic consumer market, and be able to export their goods to other destinations. With the correct design, the ZEDM will meet the logistical requirements to create competitive products at a very low cost.
Beyond Mariel, Odebrecht Infrastructure will soon begin construction of a new terminal at the José Martí International Airport, a huge project which will double the capacity for international flights.
In this regard, Mauro Hueb stressed that this development may not be sufficient to coping with the expected increase in tourist numbers going forwards.