An Illegal Business Operating Under Protection of the Castro Name / Juan
Juan Juan Almeida, 9 February 2017 — In Cuba being a member of the
Castro family is like having a modern-day license to commit piracy.
This inalienable right comes in handy for the dynasty’s descendants,
especially those born with the compound surnames Castro Soto del Valle
and Castro Espín.* The most recent example of the prerogatives that come
from sharing a pedigree with the royal family of Cuba is a private
business in Havana’s exclusive Miramar district run by Sandro Castro
In addition to being a well-known DJ, the young man is the son of Alexis
Castro Soto del Valle and grandson of the late Cuban leader Fidel
Castro. In the midst of a campaign against drugs, prostitution and
fraud, the capital’s municipal government “temporarily” suspended the
issuance of licenses for new privately owned restaurants on September
16, 2016. Yet in that same month it ignored directives from Isabel
Hamze, acting vice-president of the Provincial Administrative Council,
and issued a permit for a new bar and restaurant to be operated by Sandro.
Located at the intersection of 7th Avenue and 70th Street in Miramar,
the former Italian restaurant is now a fashionable discotheque, a place
where an elite young crowd enjoys Havana’s nightlife with no concern for
the hour of day, the day of the month, or how much alcohol or other
substances are consumed. The establishment, which reserves the right to
admit whomever it chooses, has a maximum legal occupancy of ninety
people, far beyond the limit set by law for seats in private restaurants.
The restaurant sector grew out of a governmental self-employment
initiative known as cuentapropismo, which was an intended as a
palliative solution to families’ economic problems. As a result, there
are now more than 1,700 private restaurants throughout the island. These
small businesses have benefitted from Raul Castro’s modest reforms, the
noticeable boom in tourism and the rapprochement with the United States.
“If you like what’s cool, what’s exclusive, and you like rubbing elbows
with celebrities, Fantasy has what you’re looking for. It offers
different environments, good music and a demanding clientele. The
interiors aren’t anything great but it’s the perfect place to organize
an event. Once inside, you are protected while at the same time you are
beyond the law. It’s heaven for party-goers,” says a young regular. “In
a country where everything is controlled, it’s uncontrolled,” he adds.
Another Cuban youth, who lives in Miami but was recently visiting the
island, says he has been to the discotheque a couple of times and claims
that the requirement for getting in is “looking like you have enough
dollars to pay. If not, you are not well received.”
“You have to make a reservation beforehand but, if someone gets there
and offers them more money, you run the risk of losing your table.
Individual drinks cost an average three or four dollars and a bottle can
go for as much as eighty-five dollars,” adds the young visitor from Miami.
Faced with such blatant chicanery, Havana started reissuing licenses for
new private restaurants on October 24, although it continues to warn
owners that they must comply with regulations on noise and closing times
(3:00 AM) as well as prohibitions against hiring artists, on the
consumption and sale of drugs, and on prostitution and pimping.
It also announced that there would be routine quarterly inspections of
new and established businesses in which “different factors” — a
euphemism for the regime’s various agencies of repression — would
oversee compliance with regulations. It also set up groups in every
region to monitor this new form on non-governmental management.
But Fantasy manages to evade any oversight. It defies easy
categorization. By day it is a pizzeria and by night a nightclub. This
combination leads to a certain “ambiguity” in terms of its actual use
“Where the captain rules, the soldiers have no say. No one can go
against the son of Alexis Castro Soto del Valle. It’s a scandal; it’s
unbearable. They play music at full volume. Boys come and get into fist
fights. Trucks make deliveries at all hours of the day and night. The
police are here but they don’t do anything. Miramar is a residential
area. We have sent a ton of letters complaining to authorities but they
don’t dare take any action. Sandro is one of Fidel’s grandsons and
that’s all that matters,” says a neighbor who, like others, prefers to
*Translator’s note: A reference to the children of Fidel and Raul
Source: An Illegal Business Operating Under Protection of the Castro
Name / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba –