LATIN AMERICA

Washington pressures Telefónica over Cuban affiliates

US government continuing to question Spanish companies that do business in Cuba

The US government is continuing to question Spanish companies that do business in Cuba, a country Washington has designated as a "state sponsor of terrorism."

In this latest query, the US Security and Exchange Commission reminded Telefónica president César Alierta in a November 29 letter that it had warned the telecoms giant two years prior about its affiliates in Cuba, including Telefónica Data Cuba.

In a response letter dated December 30, Telefónica told the SEC that it had sold its shares in Data Cuba in 2005 and said it has no plans for future investment in the communist Caribbean island.

In the past, Washington has frequently asked Spanish officials for explanations concerning other companies' business dealings in Cuba or Iran, such as Repsol and BBVA.

The US Embassy keeps the US State Department abreast of the Spanish firms working in countries that have special prohibitions designated by the Treasury Department, as was revealed by WikiLeaks dispatches of cable correspondence between Madrid and Washington.

In Telefónica's letter, which was confidential, phone officials say that they made contact with the Cuban government concerning the possible sale of the state-run telecommunications company ETECSA but no agreement was ever reached.