04 July 2022

In Memoriam

It is with much sadness that we bring you the news of Ernesto Hernández-Catá’s passing on 4 June 2022 in Maryland. Born in Marianao, Havana, Cuba in 1942, Ernesto would have turned 80 on 15 June. He grew up in Geneva, Switzerland where his father worked at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and where he met his wife Ximena.

An alumnus of the Geneva Graduate Institute (1968) and Yale (1974), Ernesto was an economist with a distinguished career at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where he held important positions in the Western Hemisphere, European, African and Research Departments. At the IMF he served as the leader of negotiations with Russia after the dissolution of the USSR. At one time or another he was involved with key economies at the Fund including Mexico, Canada, the US and many developing countries in Latin America and Africa. When he retired from the IMF in July 2003 he was Associate Director of the African Department and Chairman of the Investment Committee of the Staff Retirement Plan. Previously, he had served in the Division of International Finance at the Federal Reserve Board. 

From 2002 to 2007, Mr Hernández-Catá taught economic development and growth at John Hopkins University’s Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He also taught macroeconomics and monetary policy at the American University.

Ernesto was a founding member of the Association for the Study of Cuban Economy (ASCE), where during its annual conventions, he presented numerous papers thathave been quoted, and published in a variety of national publications and academic journals. He wrote books and important articles about transition policies drawing on his wide experience with Russia and other formerly socialist economies: The Cuban Economy under a Magnifying Glass: Essays in Honor of Oscar Espinosa Chepe (2014); War, Justice and Infamy: A Brief Universal History (2013); and Russia and the International Monetary Fund: The Political Economy of Macro Stabilization (2004).

Ernesto had many passions. He loved history, politics, sports, literature, music and Belgian comic books. He enjoyed blues music in particular and was the founding lead guitarist of the Fundamentals Blues Band. They performed for many years at IMF’s annual parties and family gatherings.

Tribute from Graduate Institute Professors and Alumni

Alexander Swoboda
A friend, a voice and a lovely man is no more. His death is a loss to all of us. It is hard to believe that we will no longer receive his mails, hear his voice or his guitar playing. Even though I had not seen Ernesto in a few years, he was part of the tapestry of my life, ever since he was a student and I, three years his elder, a young lecturer at the Geneva Graduate Institute. I had just returned from my PhD at Yale, where Ernesto later moved for his doctoral studies, on my recommendation I believe. Ximena of course, you were part of the story already then and ever after. When we did not meet in DC, we met on Ernesto's and Ximena's visits to Geneva. Ernesto went through so much with so much courage that we came to think he was indestructible. And he is. He will remain with us at least as long as…

Urs Luterbacher
It is with profound sadness that I heard of the passing of my dear old friend Ernesto. Our friendship went back a long time to our student days first as fellow pupils, and then as roommates with Jacques Leroy. He left for the US one year before me and then I saw him as often as we could get together. I always admired the sharpness of his mind and his interest in a great variety of subjects ranging from economics to politics. Even though we disagreed on details (I am somewhat more liberal than he was), we always agreed on the essentials. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see him again and Ximena a few years ago with Jacques and to introduce him to Raphaelle, my new companion whom I met after the death of my dear wife Ellen thirteen years ago. Please receive my most sincere condolences. I share your grief.

Paul Mathieu
Ernesto was a larger than life figure for many, as well as a friend, colleague, and fellow Institute alumni. He was a long-term colleague and boss of mine at the IMF, in the European and African departments. He had a very sharp intellect and was very skilled in communicating his strong and heart-felt views on liberty and economic and political freedoms. I remember fondly our conversations as he reminiscenced about his work and encounters in Russia (and with a certain Fund MD!). Among other things, he helped us revive the FERIS America foundation. with the help of Professor Alexandre Swoboda, who supported the Graduate Institute of which he had such fond memories. I remember taking the train to New York City with him at least once. He was also a faithful and early supporter and attendee of our local alumni chapter and of our student scholarship. I also recall he had played hockey in his youth and was a big Capitals fan. I remember meeting him at a game a few years ago with his daughter. One of my last memories of him was in Geneva with Ximena, where he attended the 2018 Alumni Reunion on the big white lake cruisers. We were in the same hotel and shared some lovely moments together.