"Self-Employment" for Castro's Elite

Saturday, January 22, 2011
Please read the following excerpts very carefully.

They are from a recently-released State Department cable on Cuba's corruption.

Then, ask yourself -- who benefits from Castro's "self-employment charade"?

It's simply a two-bit military dictatorship.

Power and Position

11. (C) The GOC stopped giving licenses to new paladars (home-based restaurants) several years ago, raising questions as to what the remaining operations had done to stay open. An American specialist on the topic posited that all upscale paladars were in some way "connected." For example, a USINT officer outside the XXXXXX paladar XXXXXX spotted the supposedly "self-employed" owner drive up in a car with Ministry of the Interior (MININT) plates. A one-table paladar in the Santa Fe neighborhood (known as the "fish paladar") reportedly enjoys an elite clientele - Raul Castro. In these days of heightened state control, merely bribing inspectors is not enough to stay open.

12. (U) The benefits of holding a position of power within the GOC can be lucrative. A Swiss businessman told P/E officer that Cuban managers take kickbacks for awarding large contracts to foreign companies and then deposit those kickbacks in banks abroad. "Just like everywhere in the world, a million dollar contract gets you 100,000 in the bank," he commented. These state managers are not so much members of the revolutionary elite, but rather pragmatists who have carved out a space for themselves within an otherwise rigid system. The former head of the Tourism Ministry might serve as an example - he was dismissed in 2004 due to "serious mistakes relating to control" and replaced with a military general.

13. (C) Separate from this elite crowd of entrepreneurs stand Castro's cadres of regime faithfuls, some of whom are widely rumored to be corrupt (such as Castro clan insider General Julio Casas Regueiro). Last year, Battle of Ideas Head Otto Rivero (a Castro protege) almost lost his job due to a corruption scandal. Battle of Ideas personnel were rumored to be dipping into the pie at all levels, from accounting shenanigans to making off with food and television sets destined for the "Free the Five" campaign.