Vietnam’s Ghost Investments in Cuba’s Hotel Sector

The gigantic building on Dragones Street that once housed the New York Hotel, the first expropriated by Fidel Castro after the Revolution. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 December 2022 — Vietnam’s investment in Cuba’s tourism businesses, announced several times in recent years, will become a reality in 2023, according to the official media.

An article published by the Cuban News Agency on Tuesday, indicated that “Vietnamese companies will assume the construction of a hotel and the repair of two others in this capital.”

The text does not specify the number of companies that will invest or the names of the hotels, but four years ago, in 2018, the Hosteltur page echoed a similar news — never realized — after a bilateral business forum.

Then, it was claimed that a Vietnamese company, Hanel, agreed with the state-owned Cubanacán to build a five-star hotel on the Island on the grounds occupied by the Pedro Borrás pediatric hospital, closed in 1988 and then demolished, and that another company, Chao-Viglacera, signed a contract with the Gran Caribe chain to administer “another old facility in Havana.” The latter was none other than the old New York hotel, the first to be expropriated by Fidel Castro after the triumph of the Revolution, located on Dragones Street, next to the Capitol building, in Central Havana.

It’s a gigantic building that is not only closed, but also in ruins, with entire trees growing from the structure of the walls and roof and an intense smell of urine around it. The canopy of its facade had already fallen years ago, and the danger of a collapse constitutes a constant threat to those who pass by the place, where there is intense traffic.

As for the grounds of Pedro Borrás, nestled in the central Avenida de los Presidentes (Calle G) of El Vedado, a space that until recently was full of garbage bags and, at night, furtive shadows, you can see earthworks that for months have given rise to all kinds of speculation among the neighbors.

None of that is referred to in the article published on Tuesday, including the statement to Prensa Latina by the Cuban ambassador to Vietnam, Orlando Hernández Guillén, who affirms that “everything is well advanced for this incursion to happen at some point in 2023.”

The diplomat also points out that in the new year “there will be consolidation and development in the economic sphere” for new Vietnamese sectors in the island’s economy. In this regard, he says that “at the moment a detergent factory is being concluded,” without specifying that it is a plant belonging to the joint venture Suchel TBV S.A. and that, four years after obtaining the permits to settle in the Mariel Special Development Zone, it has not yet been possible to finish it.

In addition, Hernández Guillén mentions the construction of a feed plant for livestock, the expansion of the existing one for napkins and diapers and a photovoltaic generation plant, specifying that “it is small but precedes other larger ones that are being negotiated.”

Last year it was also announced that there were tourism projects between Cuba and Vietnam. Specifically, some “letters of intent” signed by the state conglomerates Gran Caribe and Cubanacán with the Vietnamese company City Land Investment Company Limited “for the constitution of a joint entity that will be responsible for the construction and development of hotel projects.”

So far, none of the publicized plans have been realized.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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