Rio Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro / Juan Juan
Juan Juan Almeida, 28 February 2017 — An unusual combination of powerful
forces has conspired to put Río Mar, a privately owned restaurant, in
the defendant's dock. Who has broken the rules this time?
Río Mar occupies an enviable location on the western bank and at the
mouth of the Almendares River, right across from the former St. Dorothy
of the Moon of Chorrera Fort, erected in 1646, which currently houses
the Mesón de la Chorrera. This small detail gives you some idea of the
cost that comes from having a pedigree like the owners: the stigmatized
and closely watched family of former military men, Antonio and Patricio
de La Guardia, who were convicted in 1989.*
Located on Third Avenue between C Street and Final Street in the Miramar
district, Río Mar has become a favorite of local and international
customers who consider it one of the best of its kind in Cuba. Opened in
2012, the restaurant maintains an unbeatable offering that combines
gastronomic quality, superb service and a delightful environment in just
the right amount. It also offers a fabulous view of Havana and its
In this case, it is not the total subordination to military authority
that exists on the island that is so troubling. Rather it is the
astonishingly placid acceptance of how the judicial and legislative
branches serve as a private law firm for the executive — a branch which
in Cuba is synonymous with the Castros — and how this hinders the
performance of the private sector and society as a whole.
Neighbors indicate that Río Mar is not violating rules covering legal
hours of operation for this type of business or regulations governing
noise levels. It cannot be accused of fraudulently transferring
ownership because the building has always been in the family. Instead,
sources close to the investigation indicate the business's problem is
not with the agency that regulates all private-sector work, nor with the
courts, nor with the police, much less with the Provincial
The investigation was launched by the Committee for Defense and National
Security** — an unsettling and highly visible organization with no legal
standing — and ordered by the office of the Attorney General of the
Republic of Cuba. This office was set up to oversee the organs of
government, administer state assets, and prevent and prosecute
administrative corruption, not to waste its resources investigating
small privately owned businesses.
"It's really despicable. Look, I'm not an inspector or an owner. I don't
have access to the information the comptroller has… not by a long shot.
The only information I have is from working in this restaurant and that
tells me they are not doing anything illegal here. They obey all the
self-employment regulations because they know better than anyone that
their surname constantly keeps them under the watchful eyes of the
government and its henchmen," says an employee with real bitterness.
*Tony de la Guardia was a colonel in the Cuban Interior Ministry who
was executed after being convicted of cocaine trafficking. His twin
brother Patricio was sentenced to thirty years in prison.
** In a previous post, the author described the Committee for Defense
and National Security, an organization headed by General Raúl Castro's
son Alejandro, as an unofficial agency unrecognized by the Cuban
constitution but which nonetheless plays a role in government.
Source: Rio Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -