Ivan Garcia, 20 October 2015 — In Guanabacoa, a town southeast of Havana, you still hear stories about Gilberto Martinez Suarez, alias Gilbert Man. Though told with a pinch of exaggeration and myth, they are largely true.
This mediocre reggaeton musician was known in Guanabacoa with his frequent parties in a villa renovated in record time, generous tips in bars and private restaurants, monumental orgies and flashy cars.
“To tell the truth, he wasn’t much of a singer. But all the girls’ jaws dropped when he drove by in cars we had only seen in American movies. The man seemed to be from another planet, what with all the gold chains and necklaces he wore,” says Giselle, a university student.
Liudmila, a hooker who drums up customers in Havana nightclubs, recalls, “One night some very big black guys came in wanting to hire me for a wild party. They told me to find four or five really good-looking girls. Three days later we were taken to Gilbert Man’s house. The guy paid us 200 CUC each to dance naked.”
If you talk to marijuana and cocaine dealers in Havana, almost everyone agrees that “Gilbert was something else,” as one dealer in the old part of town put it. “The Man spent more than a thousand on powder and weed every weekend,” he notes.
In the winter of 2015, Gilbert Man was arrested at his home in Guanabacoa in a full-blown sting operation. The reggaeton musician was wanted by US authorities for credit card fraud, identity theft and forgery in two Florida counties.
With the money he stole, he was able to build a flashy mansion in Guanabacoa, acquire four cars and spend money hand over fist. He liked to be noticed.
After the Revolution a bearded Fidel Castro tried to construct a different kind of society, one which swept away the scourges of the past. The new government passed laws that eradicated casinos, prostitution and drug use.
It was not just that the military regime adopted an outlandish ideology. It also tried to create a “New Man,” described by Argentine communist Che Guevara as “a cold and ruthless machine for killing Yankees in every corner of the globe.”
Ideological eugenics dictated that these children of the Revolution have their emotions excised. Loyalty to Fidel Castro was sacred. As modern Frankensteins, they were supposed to work without material incentives. They had no religious beliefs — the church was supposedly the opiate of the masses — and liquor and rumba were considered to be vices of degenerates.
As it turned out, the experiment did not work. Those who remain from that batch are liars who parrot every slogan and feign loyalty to the “Revolutionary cause” while stealing from their jobsites.
When they leave the island, they behave and act with the same duplicity they learned in Cuba: stealing, lying and climbing the social ladder by trampling over others.
In January of this year an in-depth investigative report by a Florida newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, documented how several Cuban criminal organizations living in the United States embezzle public funds.
Their crimes include Medicare fraud, traffic accidents staged to cheat insurance companies and marijuana production. According the Sentinel article, 9% of marijuana trafficking offenses and federal insurance scams are committed by Cuban criminals.
At the end of its investigation, the Florida daily came to the conclusion that there is a revolving door that allows thieves easy access to the country and a safe means of escape to Cuba when the situation starts to look dangerous for them.
It is estimated that over the last twenty years Cuban criminals have stolen more than two million dollars from US businesses and taxpayers.
There are about three-hundred people living in Cuba who have embezzled money from US government programs. Under permissive conditions of the Castro regime, they have set up private businesses using other individuals as proxies.
An attorney for ONAT (National Office of Tax Administration), the agency in charge of regulating private sector employment, states that “several thousand businesses in the hospitality, food and transportation sectors — which happen to be the most profitable — are funded by money from the United States that was obtained illegally. I know of privately owned restaurants that have been reporting losses for years but which are still doing business. These are money laundering operations.”
The owner of a fleet of five cars and three jeeps used as taxis admits that his business is bankrolled by a relative in Miami. “Both he and I live off the proceeds from the business. Every month I get five or six thousand dollars from couriers he sends from Miami,” says the man.
When you inquire about the legitimacy of these funds, he becomes evasive. “What do I care if the money is clean or not? It’s how I get by and it allows me to have a decent life in Cuba,” he replies.
Cuban-born criminals take advantage of special provisions of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Between 2009 and 2014 fourteen people were arrested in Miami and charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in order to illegally acquire permanent residency status under the Adjustment Act.
Let’s call him Eduardo. He is almost six feet tall and in 1980 officials at the Combinado del Este prison complex sentenced him to deportation through the Port of Mariel*. He belongs to a group of so-called “excludables,” criminals that the government of the United States considers dangerous. After reaching an agreement with the Castro government, the US repatriated them to Cuba.
Eduardo returned to the island seven years ago and still makes his living from illegal activities. Although he spent most of his time in the United States behind bars, he knows how to function in American society. He says someone living in Miami hired him “to teach some Venezuelans and Central Americans how to pass for Cubans by using the speech, gestures and the particular quirks of Havana neighborhoods. These people later travel to the US with photo IDs and documents from here.”
There’s no stopping Cuba’s “New Man.” He is still out there, defrauding America.
Diario de las Americas, October 12, 2015.
Photo: Reggaeton singer Gilberto Martinez Suarez, alias Gilbert Man, posted on Facebook these two photos of himself posing next to his car and his house in Guanabacoa on the outskirts of Havana. Martinez was wanted by US authorities for using with fake credit cards, identity theft and forgery in two Florida counties. From Diario las Américas.
*Translator’s note: The Castro regime took advantage of the Mariel Boatlift to send many convicted criminals from Cuban prisons to the United States.