Crackdown on Private Businesses around Havana
May 2, 2013
By Alexis Cepero (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — As part of a clampdown on violations of “city planning
legislation”, Raul Castro’s government is applying severe control
measures on privately-run business around the capital, many of which
have been shut down by authorities in recent months.
The National Institute for Urban Planning (IPF) has become the firm hand
of the Cuban government in its fight against alleged city planning
infractions, the mechanism through which it has decreed the closure of
hundreds of small private businesses in Havana.
The IPF is applying these harsh measures in the context of an official
campaign against infractions and misdemeanors, many of them identified
as violations of the city’s urban planning and development code. On
April of last year, Raul Castro appointed Division General Samuel
Rodiles Planas director of the IPF and tasked him with bringing order
and discipline to this sector.
According to statements made by business owners affected by these recent
measures, all private businesses that operate locales on doorways, or
places which are considered part of the city’s decorative environment,
will be shut down and forced to relocate to household or building interiors.
New Requirements and Control Measures
As part of this series of measures, business owners will now be barred
from renting out these types of spaces.
In addition to this and on the basis of Decree Law 272 of 2001 and 299,
passed on May 14, all locales built specifically to operate small
private businesses will be inspected to verify compliance with a whole
range of very strict requirements.
The IPF has now been empowered to carry out inspections and apply State
control measures. The Attorney General’s Office, city courts, local
government Inspection Bureaus, the National Housing Bureau and other
bodies will also take part in these inspection efforts.
“I knew a good thing couldn’t last long in Cuba. They simply had to
interfere, at one point,” said Madyory Menendez, the owner of a
cafeteria which was shut down because it had been set up next to a
doorway facing Havana’s busy avenue of Calzada de Diez de Octubre.
According to several individuals interviewed by CaféFuerte, IPF
officials reported that their offices are providing the public with
information about State-owned locales which the government is renting
out to business owners whose locales have been closed down.
“They weren’t exactly kind, they arrived and told me, straight out, that
I had to take everything down, showing me the Law, in writing,” a
business owner said.
Decree Law 272, which sets down sanctions for violations of the urban
planning and development code, was published in Cuba’s Official Gazette
on February 21, 2001. It establishes that, in addition to a fine, the
individual or entity can be subjected to other measures, such as being
forced to discontinue the illegal practice and to compensate the city
for damages caused.
It also empowers inspectors of the Urban Planning and Housing bureaus to
apply fines and other punitive measures. Similarly, Article 29
stipulates that, if a person fails to comply with a measure of this
nature, a competent State entity shall enforce the penalty and the
violator will be made to pay all related costs.
The enforcement of city planning legislation through the closing-down of
private businesses around the city is taking place a little over two
years after the Cuban government authorized the opening of these
businesses as an economic alternative for Cubans.
Some 400 thousand Cubans have been registered as self-employed since the
government authorized the granting of licenses for 181 different types
of private business activity, a fifth of which fall under the category
of food preparation and food product sales.