Cuba’s Tourism Thaw With the U.S. Has Been Great News for Its Military 2

passengersAndrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

At the height of Cuba’s post-Soviet economic crisis, a man with the obscure title of city historian began transforming Havana’s crumbling historic center block by block, polishing stone facades, replacing broken stained glass and repairing potholed streets.

Over a quarter century, Eusebio Leal turned Old Havana into a painstakingly restored colonial jewel, a tourist draw that brings in more than $170 million a year, according to the most recent available figures. His office became a center of power with unprecedented budgetary freedom from the island’s communist central government.

That independence is gone. Last month, the Cuban military took over the business operations of Leal’s City Historian’s Office, absorbing them into a business empire that has grown dramatically since the declaration of détente between the U.S. and Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

The military’s long-standing business wing, GAESA, assumed a higher profile after Gen. Raul Castro became president in 2008, positioning the armed forces as perhaps the prime beneficiary of a post-detente boom in tourism. Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, is in the midst of a hotel building spree that outpaces projects under control of nominally civilian agencies like the Ministry of Tourism. The military-run Mariel port west of Havana has seen double-digit growth fueled largely by demand in the tourism sector. The armed forces this year took over the bank that does business with foreign companies, assuming control of most of Cuba’s day-to-day international financial transactions, according to a bank official.

“GAESA is wisely investing in the more international — and more lucrative — segments of the Cuban economy. This gives the military technocrats a strong stake in a more outwardly oriented and internationally competitive Cuba deeply integrated into global markets,” said Richard Feinberg, author of “Open for Business: The New Cuban Economy.”

Castro has never publicly explained his reasoning for giving so much economic power to the military, but the armed forces are widely seen in Cuba as efficient, fast-moving and relatively unscathed by the low-level payoffs and pilferage that plague so much of the government. Economic disruption also is viewed as a crucial national security issue while the government slowly loosens its once-total hold on economic activity and renews ties with its former Cold War enemy 90 miles to the north.

While U.S. President Barack Obama has said détente was meant partly to help ordinary Cubans develop economic independence from a centrally planned government that employs most of the island’s workers, the Cuban government says the U.S. should expect no change in Cuba because of normalization with the U.S.

The takeover of Old Havana shows how the Cuban government is, so far, successfully steering much of the peace dividend into military coffers.

The announcement nearly two years ago that the U.S. and Cuba were restoring diplomatic relations set off a tourism boom with Old Havana at its epicenter. The cobblestone streets are packed with tourists browsing souvenir stands, visiting museums and dining in trendy private restaurants. World figures and celebrities from Madonna to Mick Jagger to Pope Francis and Obama have all visited. Hotels are booked well through next year.

AP Story continues here:  US Tourists Finance Repression

 

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“Former” Spy to Advocate for More Trade With Havana at December’s “US-Cuba Legal Summit” in New York 3

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy

By Chris Simmons

On December 1st, the US-Cuba Legal Summit 2015 will convene at the University Club in New York City. Featured speakers include lawyers, a single US government official, pro-trade advocates and self-professed “former” Directorate of Intelligence (DI) spy, Arturo Lopez Levy.

Its published agenda insists “The U.S. Cuba Legal Summit looks to provide a platform for U.S. in-house counsel to investigate the legal system in Cuba with a sharp eye to potential pluses and minuses when opening lines of communications.” Which begs the question, why is Castro lackey Arturo Lopez Levy a panelist?

The real name of this faux “scholar” is Arturo Lopez-Callejas, the name he was known by for over 30 years. Additionally, he acknowledges his spy career in his book, Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change. In the spirit of open disclosure, I hope attendees are advised that Lopez-Callejas is a nephew-in-law to Cuban dictator Raul Castro. More specifically, he is the first cousin of Castro’s son-in-law, Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Primo Lopez-Callejas. General Rodriguez heads the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA), placing him in charge of Cuba’s entire tourism sector.

The Miami Herald reported “Rodriguez, married to Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espín, is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in Cuba — smart, arrogant, frugal and a highly effective administrator of GAESA.” Retired Herald reporter Juan Tamayo also noted that Deborah Castro’s brother is Alejandro Castro Espín, Castro’s chief intelligence advisor.

Congratulations to Summit officials for a thorough vetting process. I’m sure Lopez-Callejas would never exploit such a lucrative opportunity to personally enrich his extended family and sustain a regime to which he pledged his life.

The Castros Just Want the Embargo Lifted 4

FidelTranslated by Capitol Hill Cubans

Roberto Alvarez Quinones is a Cuban journalist who spent over 25-years in Castro’s state-run Granma newspaper, as an economic commentator. He also served stints at the Cuban Central Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

By Roberto Alvarez Quinones in Diario de Cuba

The Castros do not want normalization, just the embargo lifted

The Castro brothers have always understood U.S. presidents and the intricacies of political power better than the Americans have comprehended the Cubans. In Washington they still can’t fathom why the two brothers and their military junta don’t want friendly and harmonious relations with the U.S., but rather for the embargo to be lifted, and to receive loans and tourists from the north with bulging wallets. Simple as that.

With the Venezuelan crisis deteriorating by the minute, an end to the embargo has become urgent for the Castro regime. But having politically cordial and normal relations with Washington is not in their best interest. Hence, they will do everything possible to prevent them, or to sabotage them, even if the “blockade” (a military term that has nothing to do with a unilateral trade embargo placed by one country on another) is lifted.

The dictatorial elite’s view is that “too much” rapprochement with the US would generate great internal and external trouble, as it would mean “betraying” its history as an anti-American leftist leader in Latin America. But, above all, it could undermine the regime’s Orwellian control over all of Cuban society. People on the island feel would be less fearful of demanding more freedoms if the “Empire” were a strong ally.

The gerontocracy of “historical” commanders is not prepared – nor do they want to be – to grapple in a civilized way with the political, ideological, economic, cultural and psychological “contamination” that could spring from a close relationship with the U.S. The training of the Castro regime’s nomenklatura has always been based on the opposite: visceral confrontation with the “imperialist enemy.”

Castro’s Manifest Destiny

In reaction to U.S.-made rockets fired at a farmer’s house in the Sierra Maestra by Batista dictatorship aircraft on June 5, 1958, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Celia Sánchez setting forth the Manifest Destiny of his revolution: “When this war is over, for me a much longer and greater war shall begin: that which I will wage against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny. ”

That war did not end with the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington. And it will not end as long as the island is ruled by Castro and the commanders who joined the anti-U.S. crusade conceived by their leader. There will be no close relationship between Cuba and the United States until there is a new “de-ideologized” political leadership on the island.

Feature continues here: Castros Despise Normalization

 

The Laughable Duplicity of “Former” Cuban Spy Arturo Lopez-Levy 12

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy, now believed to be in his 8th year as a doctorate candidate.....

“Former” Spy Arturo López-Levy

By Chris Simmons

The Huffington Post disgraced itself again yesterday with another propaganda piece by admitted “former” Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer, Arturo Lopez-Levy. His feature, Why Senator Rubio’s Lies Matter,” condemned the Senator for a lack of ethics. Lopez-Levy attacked Rubio for having lied when he claimed his family fled the left-wing dictatorship of Fidel Castro when in reality they fled the right-wing dictatorship of General Fulgencio Batista. The “former” spy said this deception “shined a spotlight on the senator’s moral character.” Lopez-Levy then proceeded to make the outrageous claim that conservative Cuban-Americans (including Rubio) are former Batista supporters.

As ludicrous as Lopez-Levy’s statements are, the real hypocrisy is the layers of lies in which he has encased his own persona. The real name of this perpetual doctoral candidate (now believed to be in his 8th year of studies) is Arturo Lopez-Callejas. After all, this is the name he lived by for over 30 years in Cuba. The faux scholar also now denies his spy career, although he acknowledged his patriotic service to Fidel in his book, Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change.

He also – innocently I’m sure – forgot to tell readers he is Raul Castro’s nephew-in-law. More specifically, he is the first cousin of Castro’s son-in-law, Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Primo Lopez-Callejas. Rodriguez leads the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA), placing him in command of Cuba’s entire tourism industry. According to the Miami Herald, “Rodriguez, married to Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espín, is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in Cuba — smart, arrogant, frugal and a highly effective administrator of GAESA.”  Herald reporter Juan Tamayo also noted that Deborah Castro’s brother is Alejandro Castro Espín, Castro’s chief intelligence advisor.

So to recap, the man who lies about his true name, his career, his family ties, and the privileged life he led in Cuba now has the cojones to question the integrity of another person?  Seriously????

Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General 7

Newly appointed Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas

Newly appointed Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas appears to remain a powerful figure despite reports that he has fought with the family.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A powerful son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro, in charge of the military enterprises that dominate the island’s economy, has been promoted to general despite recurring reports of tensions with his wife and brother-in-law.

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, in his mid-50s and long identified as a colonel in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), was identified as a brigadier general in a Jan. 29 report in the Web pages of Cubadefensa, a FAR publication.

Rodriguez heads the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA), the FAR’s business arm — the military controls 80 percent of the Cuban economy, including hotels, factories, restaurants and airlines — and sits on the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

He also is spearheading the $1 billion development project for the Port of Mariel west of Havana, Cuba’s strategic bet for reinserting itself into the global economy with the help of $800 million in financing from Brazil.

Military promotions in secretive Cuba are seldom announced, but Cubadefensa revealed his new rank in a brief report saying he attended a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the military-run Almacenes Universales S.A.

Rodriguez, married to Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espín, is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in Cuba — smart, arrogant, frugal and a highly effective administrator of GAESA.

His promotion to general supported speculation that he might succeed Castro eventually because he holds a high military rank, knows the economy, comes from a good family and married into an even more important one. His father, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Rodríguez del Pozo, was one of the Fidel Castro guerrillas who seized power in 1959.

“This means that he remains in contention, despite what people have been saying about his troubles,” said Luis Dominguez, a Miami exile who first reported Rodriguez’s promotion in his blog, Cuba al Descubierto — Cuba Uncovered.

Retired CIA analyst Brian Latell, who authored two books on Cuba, said the new rank is commensurate with the general’s responsibilities at the very profitable GAESA. “I would say he earned his star fair and square,” he said.

But Rodriguez also has been reported to have clashed often with Deborah and her brother, Alejandro Castro Espín, 48, an Interior Ministry colonel who is Castro’s chief intelligence advisor and runs a tough anti-corruption campaign.

Read more here: Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General

Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General