Posted on Saturday, 11.02.13
Cuba cracks down on private cinemas, game salons
BY ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
HAVANA — Cuban authorities are bringing down the curtain at the
privately run cinemas and video game salons that have mushroomed on the
island recently, saying Saturday that the businesses are unauthorized
and proprietors must halt such entertainment immediately.
The movie and video parlors have been operating in a legal gray area
often under licenses for independent restaurants, offering basic food
and refreshments even though the entertainment is the main draw. They
are not mentioned on the list of nearly 200 areas of independent
enterprise authorized under limited economic changes begun by Raul
Castro, but until now they were not explicitly prohibited either.
An announcement published in Communist Party newspaper Granma said the
show is over.
“Cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer games will cease
immediately in whatever kind of private business activity,” said the
message from the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.
Many private cinema operators spent thousands of dollars to launch their
businesses, which range from modest to flashy and offer the latest
Hollywood blockbusters and fast-paced video games.
“Economically, this really hurts us. This (business) was a relief for
the family,” said Orlando Suarez, speaking in front of a marquee listing
Saturday’s entertainment program at his San Rafael 3D cinema in central
Havana. “We don’t understand why they didn’t give us a window of time
instead of taking this stance of ‘close down now.'”
Private theaters have become increasingly popular as an alternative to
poorly maintained state-run cinemas, which tend to show more staid,
high-brow fare, and moviegoers were also dismayed at the news.
“It’s a lack of respect. What are we going to do now?” said Lionny
Gonzalez, a 15-year-old high school student. “Now the only thing left
for us is to go to a disco. There’s nothing else.”
“Young people need these salons,” said Rafael Gonzalez, a 53-year-old
father of five. “They spend time there instead of being on the streets.”
Recently the Communist Party youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde published
a lengthy article quoting Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas as
saying the video salons promote “frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo culture
and banality,” raising fears of a crackdown.
Cuba also recently announced a ban on private commercialization of
imported goods, and Saturday’s message said small business owners who
have been selling products brought from overseas will have until Dec. 31
to liquidate their inventories.
The ban affects people who took out licenses to produce and sell
clothing or household products, but in reality made money mostly from
reselling foreign goods imported into Cuba one overstuffed suitcase at a
“The government ratifies its firm determination not to permit violations
of any kind,” the announcement in Granma read.
Under Castro’s limited economic reforms, begun in 2010, the government
has legalized the buying and selling of homes and used cars and done
away with a longstanding exit visa requirement.
It also authorized a slate of permitted independent jobs, everything
from gardeners and manicurists to massage therapists and taxi drivers.
Critics lament that for the most part, white-collar professionals are
still excluded from the private sector.
The note in Granma said the bans on selling imports and running home
cinemas were instituted to ensure the economic reforms proceed in an
“This is not, in any way, taking a step back,” it said. “On the
contrary, we will keep advancing decidedly in the updating of the Cuban
About 436,000 Cubans are currently working in the private sector,
according to government figures.
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