Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants / Juan
Juan Juan Almeida, 24 October 2015 — Some news outlets echoed the words
of the Vice President in charge of the Council of Provincial
Administration for Havana, Isabel Hamze, when she exposed the Havana
Government’s reasons for temporarily suspending the issue of new
licenses for paladares — private restaurants — and revising those that
already exist. Look, this campaign isn’t a matter — like so many have
repeated — of a war against the self-employed, the Cuban private
initiative, the restaurants or the late-night bars. It’s much more: a
field battle, subtle and personal, against some private entrepreneurs
who brushed up against power.
It’s true. The municipal governments of Havana affirmed that they had
several meetings with 135 owners of Havana paladares and conversed with
them, implying a threat, about particular negative tendencies that have
appeared in some private restaurants. But yes, according to official
figures, in Havana there are more than 500 paladares and 3,000 cafes. So
why didn’t they all attend these meetings?
At the beginning of this month, Cuban authorities ordered some private
nightclubs to close, citing allegations of violations of the closing
hour (3:00 am), not having parking, hiring artists without going through
agencies, permitting the consumption and trafficking of drugs, accepting
the practices of prostitution and pimping in the establishments, not
respecting Customs regulations in the importation of goods for
commercial use, acquiring and smuggling goods, money laundering and
investing capital of doubtful origin, not abiding by contractual
relationships as established in Law 116 or the Work Code, violating city
regulations and evading taxes.
Doing so would be understandable. But they didn’t close Bolahabana or
the Ashé Bar, the Shangri Lá and others, where incidents had been
reported with some members of the Castro elite. Thus, the measure is
simply a demonstration of power.
You remember that in August of last year, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez
Castro, the bodyguard-in-chief (and Raul Castro’s grandson), now with a
higher rank, because of a “skirt” problem, insisted on expelling from
Cuba, with an indefinite sanction against entering the national
territory, the Spanish businessman, Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández,
owner of the Shangri Lá bar and the Up&Down bar-restaurant.
These particular restaurants are the most visible part of the economic
reforms promoted by General Raúl Castro. No one in his right mind can
believe that a “Vice President in accordance with a Council of
Provincial Administration,” a Cuban official of the fourth category,
sweaty, poorly coiffed and with an excellent aptitude for being a police
officer, is the person in charge of informing the media that the Cuban
Government is deciding to take a step backwards from such a trumpeted
opening of the new economic model.
So, why did they do it this way?
The present socio-political situation and the historic advertising
caused a considerable increase in the number of travelers that come to
the island today. The images of the destruction caused by Hurricane
Matthew, although at a too-high price, helped the government monopolize
the friendly view of the international community.
The moment is favorable for General Raúl Castro, but politically it’s
not sensible to go back to landlord methods.
The day after tomorrow, in the next session of the General Assembly of
the United Nations, the presentation of the Cuba Report entitled,
“Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade
imposed by the United States on Cuba,” will resume the robbery of owners.
The Cuban government hopes that the majority of the countries’
representatives present will disagree with maintaining a law that they
consider a violation of international rights. This is the same
government that today hinders, harasses and blockades, without the least
respect and in its own backyard, not useful enemies, but a group of
entrepreneurs who have bet on private initiative and social improvement.
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –