Private Restaurants Closed, Owners in Jail / 14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz
14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz, Camaguey, 11 November 2016 — Closed and
silent. Thus are several of the most successful private restaurants –
known as paladares – in Las Tunas and Camaguey these days. Their
proprietors are accused of several economic crimes and are in jail
awaiting prosecution, despite requests from their lawyers to
release them on bail.
Last month, after a thorough search of the Me Son paladar, ten miles
from the Las Tunas capital, the authorities took Valentin, its owner, to
El Tipico prison. It didn't help Valentin that he has in his own house
the presidency of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution,
according to the residents of the town of La Ceiba, in the municipality
"The police took everything, they only left what they couldn't take, we
don't know if we'll go back to work," lamented an employee of the
paladar. "Customers come from Holguin and even farther. We also function
as a site for parties."
Juan Carlos, a young farmer in the area who supplied the paladar with
"food and vegetables every week," confirmed that "the place had become
very famous" and that "it was a question of time before the police
came down on it."
According to the source from the provincial prosecutor's office,
Valentin is accused of "having committed serious illegalities, like
having products without proper receipts*, workers without contracts, and
arrears in tax payments to the National Office of Tax Administration
In recent months the authorities have warned that licenses for private
restaurants don't include authorization for cultural activities, hiring
artists, or bars. In Havana, several paladares have been closed for
violating these rules.
Valentin's legal problems are accompanied by the arrest, last summer, of
Roberto, the owner of La Moncloa, the most successful paladar in Las
Tunas. The arrests and severity of legal actions against the accused set
off alarms in the private sector. "Everyone is keeping their heads
down," said a relative of the owner.
In neighboring Camaguey, at least three owners of paladares have also
been arrested and prosecuted in recent months.
About 500 people work in the 74 legally registered private restaurants
in the province. In the face of the fears running through the
self-employment sector, an official of the Council of Provincial
Administration, Jesus Polo Vazquez, clarified that the searches and
arrests are simply actions to "maintain legality in the exercise of
non-state management," and that "in compliance with the law, no
installation will be closed without justification."
Polo Vazquez described those arrested as "the unscrupulous who are
enriching themselves," with tax evasion. "Cuba has a right to defend its
taxes, because that it what pays for education, health, culture and
other social services."
The family of Alberto Raiko disagrees with the official and insinuates
that the month's detention of the owner of the Mi Hacienda paladar in
the Alturas del Casino neighborhood, is "an extreme measure to frighten
successful self-employed entrepreneurs."
Employees of Rafael Papito Rizo's La Herradura, one of the most famous
paladares in Camagüey, share that perception. The name of the small
businessman went on to become synonymous with quality and fine dining
thanks to a history of more than two decades. Today, the restaurant
located in the Villa Mariana neighborhood is closed.
The most famous case, however, has been the centrally located restaurant
1800 Plaza de San Juan de Dios, winner for two consecutive years of
TripAdvisor's excellence award. The place was closed a few weeks ago
after a search of several hours. The police "loaded up even the air
conditioner," says a relative of the owner, Edel Fernandez Izquierdo.
"They seized 150 boxes of beer and 200 bottles of wine Edel had bought
over the counter without being given a receipt at the Tourism Fair in
Havana," says the relative. "They also took bottles of liquor that were
gifts from Edel's customers and friends."
Fernandez Izquierdo is accused of having containers of liquefied gas
without a receipt* for their purchase and valuable works of art that
were not listed in the Heritage Register. In his neighborhood many
suggest that the trigger was the Peugeot the successful businessman
managed to buy and other property he owns in Camagüey. "That's when
everything exploded," says a neighbor, Ramon Buenaventura.
The owner of 1800 is in the Ceramica jail and his father, retired from
the Interior Ministry with the rank of colonel, still hasn't gotten over
his surprise at what happened. "The uniform hasn't done him much good,
because it's not about something his son did, but about setting an
example so others don't cross the line," said Buenaventura.
*Translator's note: Private businesses are required to present receipts
to prove that they bought their supplies in state stores, not in the
Source: Private Restaurants Closed, Owners in Jail / 14ymedio, Ignacio
de la Paz – Translating Cuba -