Juan Juan Almeida, 18 August 2015 — Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández is a serious, respectable Spanish entrepreneur, who has done business in Cuba for twenty years. He has a trading firm, legally registered with the Chamber of Commerce, and a Cuban family. He lives on 30th Street, between 5th & 7th Avenues, in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, next door to the Canadian Embassy.
As a good businessman, clever and calculating, he seized the moment and the new opportunities presented. Convinced also that the revolutionary government needs infusions of capital from private enterprises, he expanded his business beyond his commercial ties to several enterprises on the island, and associated separately with three Cuban citizens to create the following companies:
1. Up & Down, the bar-restaurant at the corner of 5th Street and Avenue B, Vedado, Havana, open daily from 3:00 pm to 3:00 am
2. Shangri-La, the tapas bar, party room, and nightclub located on 21st between 40th and 42nd, Playa, Havana
3. El Shangri Lá, in the province of Las Tunas.
And so, like foam, the gentleman entrepreneur grew. During that boom, without realizing he was walking down a dark and slippery path, he met the grandson of Gen. Raul Castro, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who became a nightly regular at Shangri-La.
But the budding friendship ended, like Hector and Paris, with the Spanish entrepreneur pitted against the powerful Raulito in an unfair competition to win the attention (and everything else) of a beautiful young woman whose attributes, some say, surpass those of the mythical Helen of Troy.
The younger Castro lost and, genetically wrathful, used his boorish manners plus the power conferred by his lineage, transforming a simple personal problem into a police thunderstorm. Esteban received a punishment more predictable than the August weather forecast for Havana: “Deportation with indefinite denial of entry into the country.”
Unfortunately, Esteban’s is not an isolated case. His was preceded by a series of very similar stories (some even worse) of entrepreneurs expelled for Machiavellian reasons, such as the Panamanian Rodin, the French-Italian Garzaroli, the Uruguayan Gosende, and others.
The Cuban government, shameless and without decency, is like a comic opera, where business prospects, potential commercial projects, and investment opportunities offered to foreigners, are intertwined with the adventure of investing in a country where they face not only the risk of the lack of legal support and many structural, banking, and financial abnormalities, but also the challenge of living with that totalitarian touch that, paradoxically, is seductive musk for many investors attracted by power and political ties, who forget that, as the saying goes, “The sun shines from afar but burns up close.”
Always, of course, at its own convenience.
Translated by Tomás A.