How Brookings (and Others) Misleads About Cuban 'Entrepeneurs'

Thursday, August 20, 2015
Last year, the Brookings Institution's Richard Feinberg propagandized about "Cuba's Emerging Entrepeneurs":

"In Raul Castro’s Cuba, many small and medium-sized private businesses are yielding good returns to their investors. As the author discovered during his recent return to the island, successful entrepreneurs are reinvesting profits into their expanding enterprises – pointing to the emergence of a new group of on-island capitalists capable of generating some badly needed capital accumulation for the Cuban economy."

Feinberg highlighted the following examples:

"In Havana, many new paladares had opened their doors in recent months, generating a more heated competitive culinary environment. Searching for new profit centers, investors have turned to serving up late-night entertainment at bars and dance clubs, catering both to foreigners and to middle-class Cubans with disposable income. Investors in one successful venture, Shangri-La, have already launched a second night club, 'Up-and-Down,' with VIP lounges requiring a $20 consumption minimum per person, a hefty sum by Cuban standards."

Feinberg is right about one thing:

Shangri-La and Up-and-Down are the hottest nightspots in Havana.

It's where Castro's hip apparatchiks and Obama's elite travelers (in support of the Cuban people -- wink, wink) party the night away.

It's where The New York Cosmos took their "sports diplomacy" to the wee-hours of the morning.

It's where the island's finest jineteros and jineteras line the outside walls looking for a big break.

Feinberg would lead you to believe that Shangri-La and Up-and-Down are the product of Cuban "entrepreneurs" (or to be exact, "a new group of on-island capitalists").

To be fair -- it's not just Feinberg.

USA Today's Rick Jervis (who treated us to this fluff piece about daiquiris at El Floridita) also wrote, "privately owned bars, with names such as Shangri-La, Space and the Up-and-Down, are the latest in Cuba's experiment in entrepreneurship and a sign of progress trickling into the island."

Except their not.

The so-called "owner" was a Spaniard, Esteban Navarro Carvajal, who had been doing business with the Castro regime for over 20 years.

Until this summer, that is.

That's when Navarro got into a dispute with Raul Castro's grandson, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro, over the attention of a beautiful young lady.

Little Raul (though not in size) is not only the sparkle in the Cuban dictator's eyes, but doubles as his bodyguard. (In the image below, he's the one with the earpiece between Raul and Obama.)

His father is General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, head of the Cuban military's all-powerful business conglomerate, GAESA, which overwhelmingly controls most of the island's tourism industry.

According to J.J. Almeida, the exiled son of Castro's former second-highest ranking official, Navarro (the Spanish businessman) has since been expelled from Cuba -- without any legal recourse, of course.

As for Shangri-la and Up-and-Down?

They are still open -- and under the control of Castro's cronies -- like everything else in Cuba.