You have to admit it was a good storyline: Regular Cubans bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and opening up paladares (restaurants) to rave reviews. Unfortunately, like everything else in Cuba, nothing is what it seems. Turns out that the majority of these paladares, especially the most well known, are owned by intelligence officials of the Castro dictatorship.
The MININT’s Paladares
It has been long-known — though some prefer to ignore or mislead — that Cuba’s most famed “paladares” (supposedly “private” restaurants) are “connected” to the Castro regime’s military or intelligence elite.
A cable from the State Department first noted this charade back in 2006:
(C) The [Government of Cuba] 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.
Continuing this trend, Penultimos Dias has just revealed that “Star Bien,” one of those famed (and supposedly “private”) Havana “paladares” featured in travel magazines, is owned by the son of Cuba’s Minister of the Interior, the infamous General Abelardo Colome Ibarra.
This is also a favorite stop of the Obama Administration’s so-called “people-to-people” travelers.
More “reform” you can’t believe in.