The Military Takeover of Eusebio Leal’s Empire / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 14 June 2016 — Capitalizing on the ill health of Dr. Eusebio Leal* to further strengthen its commercial and business supremacy over every corner of the island, the state-owned tourism company Habaguanex will in one day, October 30, assume ownership of the historic heart of Old Havana. The area will be completely controlled by that hotbed of Cuban predators, the Business Administrative Group (GAE), run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR).

There have been numerous leaks regarding the investigation by the Comptroller General and the Council of State into the company, named for Havana’s 16th century tribal chieftain, with evidence pointing to a missing millionaire and alleged corruption in the central warehouses.

“It is common practice for corrupt officials to inspect, discard and then sell new and recently installed equipment from the company’s hotels, hostels, office buildings, stores, restaurants and cafes. But turning Habanguanex into a subsidiary of Gaviota [the state-owned tourism conglomerate] is one of the most brazen and underhanded measures ever taken by this military-run corporation, headed by General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas,” says a source close to the high-profile investigation.

Obviously, its much-talked-about corrupt practices such as parallel accounting have tarnished the compay’s already diminished credibility. But more ominous than its corruption is, I believe, that GAE’s takeover of Habaguanex amounts to a dangerous expansion whose clear purpose is to create a monopoly.

The acquisition of the tourism company will be beneficial to military leaders, who have new financial incentives. It is a subtle way of buying without having to pay and will allow GAE to enter this market sector. It also hands over control of the most profitable and best known commercial real estate in Cuba, Old Havana, which has become a must-see stop for nostalgic Cuban nationals, international celebrities, foreign heads of state and curious tourists. It is also evidence of the fierce grudge General Raul Castro has long carried for the ailing, hard-working and talented Havana historian who, thanks to his efforts and those of a large number of Havana citizens, demonstrated that it was possible to save the Cuban capital’s patrimony, an achievement that has earned it the honorary title Wonder City.

The brutal and ruthless seizure of the historic heart of Havana by the Cuban military — an act that some describe as a “Triple A” strategy (appropriation, audacity and ambition) — does not, for now, does envision a role for another Raulist organization: the Office of the Historian. But nothing is left to chance. All predators use two basic techniques in approaching their victims: surprise and fatigue. To these ends, they have installed, without grace or mercy, the ungainly General Quiñones as the head of transport for this prestigious office, a man who formerly served as head of Counter Intelligence for the Ministry of the Interior.

*Translator’s note: Leal served until recently, holding the official title Historian of the City of Havana, and directed the restoration of Old Havana and its historical center, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So Where Is General Gondin? / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 June 2016 — Why is the minister of the interior not participating in the event commemorating the creation of the ministry he heads?

On Monday June 6 the Cuban military’s top celebrity hosted the main event marking the anniversary of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) at the Universal Hall of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).

Army General Raúl Castro, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and president of both the Council of Ministers and the Council of State, presided over a celebration of almost epic proportions, which led many of us in the television viewing audience to wonder why the minister of the interior was not participating in an event commemorating the creation of the ministry he heads. Continue reading “So Where Is General Gondin? / Juan Juan Almeida”

What Does Adidas’ Fame Have to Do with Fidel Castro? / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 4 June 2016 — A study conducted by the firm Boston Consulting Group reveals some very curious findings, which I find questionable, about Cuban consumers. It claims that Adidas is the best known brand on the island due, according to this report, “in large part because of Fidel Castro’s preference for the company’s tracksuits.”

The former commander-in-chief was unquestionably the ultimate promoter of Cuban Revolution abroad. It can be logical to assume that, in a country — and I am talking here about demographics — that is one of the oldest in the Americas, its citizens still look up to the irreverent, bearded young man who angrily challenged US interests from his podium in “the plaza.” But actually it is something much simpler. The leader has grown old and is now looked upon with a certain nostalgia by people over the age of fifty-five. Continue reading “What Does Adidas’ Fame Have to Do with Fidel Castro? / Juan Juan Almeida”

Cuba to Close Medical Missions in Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: am revista)
Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: Ceara em Revista)

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 Ma 2016 — Quite unexpectedly, Cuban authorities say they are prepared to suspend or cancel medical missions to Brazil and Venezuela.

Ever since Cuban informants, who are spread across the continent, warned that Brazilian legislators were planning to remove President Dilma Rousseff from power and long before President Maduro began facing pressure from the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the Cuban government — calculating as ever and with a proven penchant for creating adversity — secretly devised a plan B, which has now begun to take effect. Continue reading “Cuba to Close Medical Missions in Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida”

On the Trail of the MININT Papers / Juan Juan Almeida

Ministry of the Interior headquarters in Havana, Cuba

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 May 2016 — In connection with a top secret theft targeting the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Cuba (MININT), a high number of officials have been arrested, a colonel in charge of computer operations has committed suicide in his own office on the eighth floor of Building A at MININT headquarters, and a foreign businessman is being subjected to enormous pressure from the Cuban government.

The information had remained secret until March 31 when an article appeared here under the title “MINIT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft.” In it, I wrote that the Major General Carlos Fernandez Gondin had left his office accompanied by a doctor after a fit of rage, which led to a heart attack and his hospitalization. Continue reading “On the Trail of the MININT Papers / Juan Juan Almeida”

Antonio Castro’s Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique Works in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Antonio Castro, son of Fidel Castro, in the Desigual store located in the Hotel Comodoro shopping mall. From the blog This-is-this.

Juan Juan Almeida, 12 May 2016 — The most expensive labels in Cuba are on the verge of the abyss. Mango, Gas, Zara, Paul & Shark, Adidas, Lacoste, Desigual and a few others present their calling cards to the Cuban government while naïve foreign businessmen in the high-end textile industry look on, allowing themselves to be seduced. The stores pretend to be profitable but it is all an illusion. They are nothing more than a houses of cards, fragile and in danger of collapse.

Commercial concessions like these are doled out on the basis of their usefulness through politically connected friends and with people who, directly or indirectly, wield authority, hold decision making power or have influence. Continue reading “Antonio Castro’s Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique Works in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida”

A Friend and Cuban Military Official Just Sent Me an Email / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 April 2016 — This will not just be the seventh congress of a communist party condemned to being swallowed up by history. It will be the last.

Cuba is a small island filled with dangerously blinding lights. All this brightness dazzles the opposition. So much so that it cannot even manage to capitalize on the discontent of eleven million Cubans.

This suggests to one segment of the exile community that the rhetorical debate has shifted from victimhood to complicity, that it overestimates a government that is losing power and is struggling to get itself out of a grave that we, the people, have not been able or known how to dig. Continue reading “A Friend and Cuban Military Official Just Sent Me an Email / Juan Juan Almeida”

Obama Invades Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

A Cuban family watching Obama’s speech during an entrepreneurs’ forum in Havana (21 March 2016)

Juan Juan Almeida, 28 March 2016 — I do not generally like rehashing old topics. It tends to squash conversation. But I am making an exception in this case because a critical reader, who in a confrontational tone accused me of being one of Castro’s spies, asked my opinion of President Barack Obama’s speech at Havana’s Gran Teatro Theater.

Time is a better and much wiser judge, and in politics everything is a production, like a Rolling Stone’s concert.

I will try to remain impartial. But for me the visit was an historic event. No sooner had Air Force One touched down in Havana than the topic was trending on all the social networks. Continue reading “Obama Invades Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida”

MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida

Raúl Castro pins the title of Hero of the Cuban Republic on division general Carlos Fernández Gondín.

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 March 2016 — Not so long ago there was a rumor that high officials of MINIT had been arrested by the Ministry. In agreement with those implicated in the event and making a clear allusion comparable to Case No. 1 of 1989 [a highly respected Cuban general was executed for drug trafficking], there was speculation about a new report. But the rumor faded away under a suspicious silence and a potent, air-tight cloak of secrecy.

Theories have flaws, and even the Roman Empire lasted four centuries longer than predicted.

What’s certain is that the Division General, Carlos Fernández Gondín, left his office in the MININT building accompanied by a doctor, after an attack of rage that gave him a stroke and left him hospitalized. Continue reading “MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida”

Raul Castro and His Retirement Plan / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 March 2016 — It is a few days before the start of the Cuban Communist Party Congress and Raul Castro is counting down the months until his retirement. He has everything more or less figured out. Almost. If you consider everything the president of both the Council of State and the Council of Ministers has said and done in the last two years, it quickly becomes apparent that it is all part of a plan in which he has weighed the possible consequences of an exponential loss of power. He knows that even if he wields power from the sidelines, as I anticipate will happen, there will be a handful of decisions about which he will not be consulted and, as happened to Fidel, he will find himself out of power.

Raul Castro’s plan is to retire while simultaneously reducing the very real possibility that a Baltasar Garzon will come along one day to stand in judgement over his many crimes. He is in jeopardy in Cuba; outside Cuba the risk is greater. Continue reading “Raul Castro and His Retirement Plan / Juan Juan Almeida”

Raul Castro Takes His Son to First Private Meeting with Obama / Juan Juan Almeida

Photo: Bilateral meeting between Raul Castro and Barack Obama in Havana.

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 March 2016 — President Barack Obama’s visit to Havana is replete with coded messages and defensive tactics. Why is it that at the start of the official ceremony we do not see Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel but rather Prince Alejandro Castro?

As everyone now knows, while the president of the United States was traveling on Air Force One to Jose Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, the inhospitable Cuban government was brutally disrupting a peaceful demonstration by the Ladies in White and civil rights activists, showing us just how much progress it has made on the issue of human rights. Continue reading “Raul Castro Takes His Son to First Private Meeting with Obama / Juan Juan Almeida”

Authorities Prepare a Lukewarm Welcome for Obama / Juan Juan Almeida

Cubans advised to stay home and watch Obama’s visit on TV

Juan Juan Almeida, 17 March 2016 —  Obama arrives in Havana on March 20. However, arbitrary arrests continue and we see only the most minimal progress on the issue of human rights and respect for basic freedoms.

The truth is Raul Castro is not pleased by all the enthusiasm surrounding his visitor, who on Havana’s streets is more popular than George Clooney.

An employee at the Cuban Export-Import Corporation — a man who is a current official and former officer in the Revolutionary Armed Forces — notes, “They are telling us is it not important to go and greet Obama and that we can see the events better on television, that everything will be very formal without a lot of fanfare.” Continue reading “Authorities Prepare a Lukewarm Welcome for Obama / Juan Juan Almeida”

Project Ramon, Cuba’s Latest Bait to Lure American Investors / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida,18 February 2016 — The latest property to be auctioned off is part of a plan to lure big American investors called Project Ramon. It involves destroying a small local beach and converting it into an exclusive tourist resort catering to a very few.

This new ecological disaster is being forged in Ramon de Antilla. Continue reading “Project Ramon, Cuba’s Latest Bait to Lure American Investors / Juan Juan Almeida”

The Role of Raul Castro’s “Super Grandson” in Cuba’s Future / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro with his grandson (l.) and French president Hollande (r)

Juan Juan Almeida, 8 February 2016 — Some say that Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro — also known as “the Crab,” “the Grandson-in-Chief,” “Raulito” and even “Arnol-mal” (or Evil Arnold, an ironic nickname referring to the former body builder, actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also a slight twist of pronunciation on the Spanish word anormal, or abnormal) — is considered to be among the contenders for the Cuban crown.

I can see that, but a crown without scepter is simply a Pamela.

Inept and dangerous — a bad combination for those who confuse folly with merit — Raul-the-Grandson can exert influence to get foreign businessmen expelled from the country. Continue reading “The Role of Raul Castro’s “Super Grandson” in Cuba’s Future / Juan Juan Almeida”

Necessary Investigation Into Dead Cubans In The Nicaraguan Jungle / Juan Juan Almeida

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Juan Juan Almeida, 18 January 2016 — Why don’t the countries which are implicated carefully investigate, in a reasonable period of time, the disappearance of these Cuban migrants? Why doesn’t the Nicaraguan government carry out an effective judicial investigation into these cases?

The accusers whisper, but, out of fear, do not accuse. They speak cautiously about dozens of Cubans abandoned in the jungle.

We will only have a rough idea of the number of those who have disappeared when those who are arriving and those who are still in Costa Rica, decide to break their silence. Continue reading “Necessary Investigation Into Dead Cubans In The Nicaraguan Jungle / Juan Juan Almeida”