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The creation of a middle class has certainly angered the state - be it owners of paladares , casa particulares or private taxi cabs.

As no-one can have success in Cuba legally they will always be under threat.

Here are the news in English :

Cuba’s Private Restaurants, Struggling Not to Die of Success / EFE-14ymedio, Lorena Canto

The famous and government higher ups choose private restaurants for their meals in Cuba. Rihanna at the La Fontana paladar. (Twitter) The famous and government higher ups choose private restaurants for their meals in Cuba. Rihanna at the La Fontana paladar. (Twitter)

EFE/via 14ymedio, Lorena Canto, Havana – Private restaurants, popularly known as paladares (palates), are under the scrutiny of the Cuban government, which has temporarily suspended the granting of licenses in the sector due to alleged breaches of rules in a booming industry that perfectly illustrates the new economy of the island.

“There has been very strong growth in a short time and it has gotten out of hand,” the self-employed owner of a very famous private restaurant in Havana told EFE, as she prepared for inspections by the authorities in the coming weeks.

In Cuba where, with the lack of official confirmations, the rumor mill runs riot, a few days ago alarm spread among paladares on hearing that the owners of the most prominent had been called to meetings – by neighborhood – with government officials.

There they were told that there would be no new licenses for private restaurants in the capital, and that there would be a round of strict inspections to ensure that those now in operation were complying with the law: no more than 50 seats, respect for the established hours, and provisioning only with products purchased in state stores for which they can show the receipts.

“The atmosphere is now very unclear,” another owner of a pioneering paladar, who also asked not to be named, told EFE.

So, the dining industry’s private proprietors, awaiting the dreaded inspections, fell into a paranoid spiral, which included hiding any merchandise not obtained through official means and redoing the menus to include only dishes and drinks made with ingredients for which they can show the receipts.

Bottles of premium liquor that came to Cuba in a suitcase, exotic ingredients or the celebrated lobsters, almost impossible to acquire by legal means and bought directly from fishermen, remain under lock and key these days, waiting for the dust to settle.

The problem is that the regulations governing self-employment, which are part of the economic reforms introduced by Raul Castro in the last decade, still have large gaps, like the lack of rules governing private workers on the communist island, or a wholesale supply market.

“It’s about sorting out a sector that started out as a part of the family economy and has become an important part of the country’s economy,” explained the same owner.

For some time now, the paladares have no longer been in the living rooms of a private house where the lady of the house cooked for four tourists, who in this way were given a peek into the daily life of a Cuban family.

There are 1,700 licensed paladares in Cuba, hundreds of them in Havana, restaurants that rival international standards in quality, in original décor and in service, and that from the beginning of the thaw with the United States two years ago have received visitors such as Barack Obama, Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

But in addition to competing with each other, they also compete with ordinary Cubans at the supermarkets, because one of the great problems of the industry is that it must be supplied at the same outlets as the rest of the population, given the lack of any wholesale market, the opening of which would be in the state’s hands alone.

“The competition for products creates unrest among the population, although it is not the direct fault of the self-employed,” says the same source.

In the state supermarkets – the only kind that exist in Cuba – EFE was able to observe how national brands of beer barely last an hour on the shelves, as the restaurants carry them out by the box full. The same thing happens with soft drinks and products like chicken breasts and milk.

Hence, she adds, the private restaurants have long demanded a wholesale market, which would also benefit the authorities “because it would allow better fiscal control over the purchase invoices.”

Another nuance of the situation, says one source, is the “special sensitivity” of the government to issues such as prostitution and drug trafficking, banned and severely punished on the Island, or access for minors to places where alcohol is served.

The current legislation provides licenses only for restaurants and cafes, so under these categories night bars have begun to proliferate, some of which have been closed down in recent weeks, although this has not been confirmed by any official source.


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Sad as this news is, I do think the bigger picture needs to be taken into account as alluded to in the article. 

If it is true that the amount of food bought by paladares crowd out access to everyday foodstuffs for normal Cubans for whom the libretta is certainly not enough then something needs to be done. 

I would enjoy the food a lot less, knowing that others must go hungry for me to eat it. 

If there are 1700 paladares serving say between 20 and 50 meals each day that would amount to 34000 up to 85000 meals daily. In a city where the availability of good food is always scarce that can certainly have an impact.

Just to be clear, this is a macro economic issue and of course no slight in any form on the paladares who are just trying to conduct a business. 

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If the paladares can't make money for the regime then they aren't valuable to them.

These are men and women trying to participate in business and being shackled by regulations and laws that truly only promote the enrichment of the powers that be.
Such a shame as these so called owners are good people trying to feed their families.

Time takes time, and these kinds of issues will be solved eventually, but not without more pain first.

The train has left the station for sure so they can try to prevent the floodgates but eventually they won't be able to.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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The ones surviving have stronger ties to the system. BTW if you read the article carefully its " No more new paladares in Havana", not for the rest of Cuba as Nino states. Nino, I'm a bit confused. Your article states that lobsters are illegal, but you said a while ago they were legal. Can you clarify this?

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No more Paladares in Cuba was rethorical .... B)

But, what happens in Havana will have repercussions in all of Cuba.

As for lobsters, they are served in all paladares as many members here can attest, but most likely not at the moment ... :)

BTW : It's an agency report - Not "my" article.

PS : Reading through Matteo's blog I found this recent post (October), scroll down to the menu pictures for all kinds of lobster dishes in a paladar :


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11 hours ago, nino said:

The creation of a middle class has certainly angered the state - be it owners of paladares , casa particulares or private taxi cabs.



3 hours ago, JohnnyO said:

The ones surviving have stronger ties to the system

Pretty much sums up the issue . Socialism and becoming middle class without being politico .

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Recent developments are worrying indeed. 

The development of the Havana Vieja precinct now under the sole control of Raul Castro's son. 

Military CEO's have now slotted into every aspect of the tourism industry infrastructure. While they have always had a controlling interest, day to day management was not one of those. 

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Part of a WAPO article today sums it up well:

An optimistic view of these developments would be that the administration’s strategy is working: Frightened by the prospect of freer business activity, and ideologically challenged in the absence of a Yanqui enemy, Cuba’s leaders must clamp down on the former and invent the latter — and round up the usual dissident suspects. That may be true; but recent events also show the tension between the president’s twin goals of doing business with the Cuban government as a legitimate equal and relieving the misery of the Cuban people, which is caused by their government. Even on the ideological defensive, the Cuban regime retains the capacity to resist change and to punish citizens who seek to bring it about.

The loosening of the sanctions reduces the ability of the state to blame the US for all of its woes. The bottom line is that there is going to have to be some kind of revolution among the people at some point. Not necessarily an overly violent one, but something is going to have to happen. I don't see a Soviet-style collapse of a huge bloated state in Cuba. It's too small, and the population too homogeneous. The Cubans will have to be informed and educated enough to embrace this idea, and exposure to the US, the west, and information through the lifting of the embargo is the only way it's going to happen. In the meantime, expect the state to possibly shift more from the communistic model to the fascistic model.

My fear is that history will just repeat itself as it's done in many South and Central American countries. The uprising begins, the state begins to put it down, the US begins arming the "freedom fighters", the military leaders of the rebellion take over and begin working with the US to once again exploit Cuba, rinse, repeat. 

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The communist oligarchy opened the door a crack for money , are finding it threatening and will slam it back shut , embargo or not. Dissidents go to jail or disappear , no uprising , another 50 years of the same system. M2C.

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As a casual observer from afar, it feels to me like the real problem is that Fidel still wields too much power.  There have been plenty of articles linked here over the past year or two, some suggesting that on a personal level Raul and Fidel hardly even speak.  Fidel is the idealist, and Raul has always been more of a pragmatist.  Once Raul took over, things slowly started progressing.  But there are enough Fidel loyalists in the party that as long as Fidel is alive, they're able to put the brakes on any reforms at any given time.  It seems pretty clear that's what happened at the party congress in April.  I feel like Raul is walking on eggshells, managing an incredibly difficult balancing act.  I think he wants to maintain what he views as progress in the reforms he's instituted, but he's better off waiting his brother out than confronting him and his supporters directly.  And he's certainly going to say all the right things publicly, so as not to give the illusion that there's any strife between the two brothers.

What remains to be seen is how Fidel's loyalists respond once he's passed on.  He's 90, and certainly in poor health.  Do they continue to hold the hard line out of loyalty to Fidel, or do they see the writing on the wall, and fall in with Raul's pragmatic reforms?  I think Raul will do everything he can to continue the balancing act until Fidel is gone, which means no drastic changes in the meantime.  Once Fidel is gone, he'll make a big push for more reform.  I hope he'll have amassed the political power to achieve it by then.  Most of the hardliners in the party tend to be from the same generation as the Castros.  Hopefully once Fidel is gone, they can let his vision for Cuba go with him.

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Looks like the "war on paladares" is more a war against unwanted bars and music places ...

But only against private ones, of course - not against the state run Casas de la Musica or other bars.

Wonder how long Espacios will stay out of trouble, located as it is, right next to Communist Party HQ in Miramar ... :-)

The War in Cuba is against “Private” Nightclubs

October 22, 2016 | Print Print |

By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — The purpose of the suspension of licenses does not seem to be against private restaurants but the bars that lie behind them. These private night clubs are not legally permitted and operate under licenses covered for a “paladar” café/restaurant.

In principle, private restaurants in Cuba are allowed to have a small bar for customers but some entrepreneurs took advantage of the loophole to open exquisite nightclubs, the level of which exist in any other country in the world.

These bars are very attractive for tourists but basically clientele consists of wealthy Cubans, artists, self-employed, athletes, businessmen, besides the children and grandchildren of the well off.

They charge from US $5 and up for a drink, almost all have live performances by renowned Cuban musicians, and they are always full. Net profits can range from $10,000 to $20,000 per month, as calculated by people in the industry.

Accused of permitting prostitution, pimping, hoarding, money laundering and receiving stolen goods or drugs, several of these establishments have already been closed, including the famous Shangrilá, located one block from the headquarters of the Cuban Parliament (ANPP) in Miramar.

However, exactly the same offenses are also committed in clubs like the House of Music locales and other nightclubs run by the State, without causing their closure and, above all, without a single report appearing in the official press.



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