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Alimport's Pedro Alvarez gets rich in Tampa.

Pedro Alvarez Borrego, a top Cuban government official who oversaw the island's $1.5 billion-a-year food importing enterprise, is living the American Dream in Tampa a mere two years after he defected, the Miami Herald reported Jan. 27.

Alvarez has bought and sold at least eight homes worth a total value of nearly $600,000 and opened a management company. He's also reportedly become a consultant on how U.S. businesses can enter the Cuba markets.

Yet mystery lingers over exactly how AlVarez--the focus of our exclusive profile in the April 2004 issue of CubaNews--could buy so much real estate so soon after his arrival from Cuba, where he was under criminal investigation in a kickback scandal at Alimport, the state food import monopoly.

Before his hasty defection, his job at Alimport made him the powerful main negotiator of contracts with chomping-at-the-bit U.S. exporters that hit a record of $711 million in 2008 and turned the United States into Cuba's fifth-largest trade partner.

Today, Alvarez, one of the top Cuban defectors in recent memory, is trying to keep out of the public eye and enjoy the good life--one neighbor said he drives a red H3 Humvee--even as some anti-Castro activists in Tampa complain that he may be living off corrupt money.

An economist, Alvarez was named to head Alimport in 1998. With the 2000 passage of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA), Cuba was suddenly awash in agriculture executives, members of Congress and six governors.

"He single-handedly said yes and no to billions in sales," said John Park Wright IV, a Naples, Fla., businessman who signed several cattle deals with Alimport.

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Title Annotation:Pedro Alvarez Borrego
Author:Herald, Miami
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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