Environmental Hell in the Sun-and-Beaches Paradise Called Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba – On the road to Coco Key, one can still see the billboard with Fidel Castro’s orders launching one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in Cuba.
“We have to pave with rocks right here, without looking ahead”, is what then dictator Fidel Castro commanded during the early 1980s, long before anyone talked about “foreign investment” or imagined the crisis that would come with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
Back then, with unlimited Soviet resources, the caudillo’s whim was to build -unscripted and winging it- an embankment over the ocean that would link Turiguano, in Ciego de Avila province with Coco and Guillermo Keys, close to a 40-mile stretch from the mainland.
Fidel Castro’s mandate on a billboard located at the entrance of the embankment thatleads to Coco Key (Credit: the authors)
The embankment would occupy –and pollute- thousands of square miles of wetlands. Hundreds of endemic animals and plants would be placed at risk, or even disappear, as well as eliminate mating grounds for many other migratory species. But, his will would be done “at any price”.
There were deserted islets in that area, mosquito-infested virgin territory, without potable water reserves. The area was used sporadically as private hunting ground by comandante Guillermo Garcia Frias, minister of transportation in the eighties, later named director of the National Enterprise for Flora and Fauna. It was Garcia Frias who first spoke to Castro in the seventies about the good beaches and ideal zones for underwater fishing, one of Fidel’s favorite pastimes.
Castro had enjoyed aerial views of the islets whenever he traveled over them by airplane, but he never paid much attention. He already had his beloved property in Matanzas, on an islet called Piedra Key, where he travelled often with his family. However, his friend’s repeated comments about that inaccessible place sparked his interest to colonize Jardines del Rey (the “King’s Gardens”) as the cluster of islets is called.
He visited the area on various occasions. He did so on his private yacht, the Aquarama, under the protection of several military helicopters and combat planes. But the eighties brought the Mariel migration crisis, and the northern coast became dangerous with so many vessels in the area that originated from Miami.
After several exploratory ventures –much too close to the edge of Cuba’s territorial waters- Fidel Castro’s personal security team concluded that it was an extremely risky operation to access the northern keys by way of the ocean.
That’s when his obsession started with building a land connection to the keys. Such an option facilitated an alternative and strategic fast evacuation when needed, although the magnitude of the construction and the number of workers and resources it required, posed the problem of it not being executed discreetly.
Thus, in 1980, after appointing Guillermo Garcia Frias as minister of Transportation –who replaced general Enrique Lusson Batlle- and piggy-backing on the “26th of July” national holiday celebrations in the province, it occurred to Fidel to promise Ciego de Avila residents “access to worthy beaches for workers and their families to enjoy.” To date, no Cuban worker whose personal and family economy depends on a state salary, has been able to visit the keys as a rights-vested tourist.
In 1983, with no preliminary studies about the environmental impact of building an embankment, work started with the pouring of tons of rock and aggregates extracted from mainland and islet quarries. There were over twenty quarries, some of which are still exploited today.
Construction would extend from Playita Militar in Turiguano, to La Silla, south of Coco Key. It would connect dozens of islets, among them Rabihorcado, where a troop of soldiers were stationed for months until officially, on July 26th, 1988, the two ends of the embankment met.
View of the islets from the embankment that leads to Coco Key (Credit: the authors)
“At first there was only one brigade at work, throwing stones like crazy. Later, when “El Vaquerito” contingent was organized, two groups were assembled, one on the mainland and another one at the islets. (The purpose was) to advance from both ends to make construction time shorter. One starting at Playita Militar, the other one starting at La Silla, in Coco Key, working its way through Rabihorcado Key (…) To deliver the equipment and the trucks, and to provide for the brigade in the islets was an odyssey. That was virgin territory, it was impossible to reach the area if not by military maneuvers, as if it were a military landing,” stated retired civil engineer Evelino Pons to CubaNet. He was among the first specialists recruited for the project in the northern islets. A graduate from Instituto Tecnico Militar (Military Technical Institute) in Havana, he was sent to Ciego de Avila on his first work assignment, and he stayed there building roads on the keys until the end of 1998.
“During the first days, we bulldozed the place day and night in order to find the quarries. We bulldozed some of the islets to the ground, also with machetes and dynamite (…) We were amateurs, had very little notion of what we were doing, literally were learning as we went, so none of us cared what happened to the flamingos or anything like that. We had to extract rocks from wherever we could find them, and a week after we started, we were already sending truckloads to Morón,” stated Pons.
“We had a work plan, but truth is most things were left to improvisation,” another worker interviewed by CubaNet remembers. Elvis Galindo was 18 years old when he was drafted to compulsory military duty (Servicio Militar Obligatorio); he served for two years as soldier in the construction of the embankment to Coco Key.
The embankment that leads to Coco Key (Credit: the authors)
“I was living in Morón (…). Instead of sending us to a military unit, they took us to the embankment project, without any previous training. A group was sent to the islets so they could start moving rocks from here to there (…). We lived in improvised tents without electricity, surrounded by swarms of sand flies that could lift you off the ground. We did everything imaginable to survive. There was no fire wood with which to light a bonfire because there were no trees anywhere, so we would syphon off gasoline from the trucks and burn rags, tires and driftwood (to repel the mosquitos). (…) No one spoke about protecting anything. Back then, no one spoke of such things (…). When we felt hungry, raided nests for eggs, and before dawn, we’d go out with our flashlights to hunt for turtles,” narrates Galindo, who is about to turn sixty. He talks about participating in the construction of another two embankments in the northern keys, as a civilian, some years later.
He continues: “Later, I was in Santa Maria Key. The same thing happened there. Lots of dynamite and excavators, although with another system and Russian, French and Spanish engineers working with us as advisors (…), quarries were opened and a cement factory was built which is operant until today meeting the tourism needs at Santa Maria Key. When I visited in 2017, aggregates were still being extracted from the El Purio, Armando Mestre and Arimao quarries. When we firsts started, there was nothing there; now there are hotels everywhere.”
A specialist from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA, by its Spanish acronym) who has authored several studies about the negative impact of construction and tourism on the northern Cuban keys, agreed to talk to CubaNet on condition of anonymity.
For this expert, what has transpired in the northern keys staring in the 1980s until today, could be considered the greatest environmental catastrophe to take place in Cuba.
“It was a savage colonization, violent from the very first truckload of rocks deposited there,” he states. “I have found articles in journals, especially from the University of Havana, dating from that time (1983-1985), already warning about the imminent catastrophe, but nobody paid any attention. After the 1992 Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit”, other more thorough studies surfaced, and CITMA was created in 1994, because Cuba had signed several accords, but nothing changed in practice. They continued destroying the keys, filled them with roads, even exported thousands of flamingos to zoos around the world and also to private buyers.”
Tourism has had a negative impact on Cuba’s northern keys chain (Credit: the authors)
This specialist considers that, even today, little progress has been made with respect to environmental matters: “They are a little more careful today because a new important and profitable market is on the rise, and that is nature tourism. However, while this type of client finally gets here, construction continues at full speed, and disasters are irreversible. The most invasive and predatory kind of tourism is the one who wins in the end, because that is the nature of the tour operators and clients that Cuba has fostered for its “sun-and-beaches” destination promotion in more than 70% of its portfolio.”
Further into the conversation with CubaNet, he went into more details about the inside chaos in the regime’s institutions that were originally created to “protect” the environment: “After the pandemic subsides, things could get worse, because they (the regime) are desperate to sell those destinations. Not even CITMA can do much about it (…). There are financial incentives, moratoria, exemptions for foreign investors that offer generous terms. The more important hotel chains are exempted from the taxes charged for the use and exploit of natural resources. The regulations are ideal, but in practice they are just a formality. The exemptions are requested under pressure of State administration branches, the very ones that should be requiring the strict enforcement of rules as part of the process of compiling the project’s record. They send us, the specialists, to evaluate the environmental impact of a construction project, but they also tell us not to be such perfectionists, and if we don’t go along, they pass the file on to someone else until they get their way. Everything negative that one detects on a field trip remains within the pages of the report; research results are published as part of a master’s or doctoral thesis, or to deliver at some remote conference, and eventually it’s locked-up in a drawer.”
A change of plans. Enter the Soviets and tourism arrives in the keys
On July 26, 1988, the embankment that links the mainland with the Jardines del Rey keys has been completed. However, the following year, the socialist bloc of Eastern Europe ceases to exist. Soviet subsidies vanish, and with them Fidel Castro’s personal plans.
Coco and Guillermo Keys would no longer be the new Castro’s Piedra Key, nor the vacation resort promised to the residents of Ciego de Avila and their families a decade before. On November 12, 1993, in the midst of the Special Period, Cuba’s dictator inaugurated the first hotel in Coco Key, a five-star installation with 458 guest rooms, managed by the Spanish hotel group Guitart Hotels. The original plan called for 1000 rooms, but things didn’t fare well for the company in their dealings with Castro.
In one of his megalomaniacal excesses and without thinking about the environmental damage it would cause, Fidel Castro insisted on turning the Sabana-Camagüey archipelago –also known as Jardines del Rey – into the largest tourist destination not only in Cuba, but also in the entire Caribbean region. This chain, made up of more than 2,517 keys and islets, extends for 289 miles from one end to the other, on the northern coast of Cuba.
The environmental impact was not limited to Coco and Guillermo Keys, on the contrary: it extended way beyond that. For example, the negative effects on the aquifers of Villa Clara province are alarming. In Santa Maria Key alone, approximately 140 liters of water are pumped
per second from the mainland, in addition to another 50 liters per second extracted from the limited aquiferous deposits in the area. The repercussions of this on the local population is a deficient, when not totally absent, water supply, about which official news media has reported.
Construction has displaced both fauna and native vegetation in the keys. Here, a hotel in Guillermo Key (Credit: the authors)
Due to the scenic value of its landscapes, the extensive and beautiful beaches, the state of conservation of its ecosystems and elevated numbers of endemic species that reflect land and marine bio-diversity, the archipelago was proposed as “Special Region of Sustainable Development” around the time that tourism-related construction began. However, as studies from 20 years ago indicate, and are corroborated by more recent research, that has not translated into environmental care, but into over-exploitation.
One of the most important studies about this matter, published in 1999, is accessible on Internet. It’s a study undertaken jointly by Cuba’s Environmental Agency and the Center for Inspections and Environmental Control, that evaluated the environmental impact of tourism construction in the northern keys and other coastal zones of the island.
Another report prepared by the Center for Information, Management and Environmental Education (CIGEA, by its Spanish acronym) published around the same time (1998) warned that accelerated tourism development in the keys –particularly the constructions of roads- was one of the reasons causing damages to the marine ecosystem.
Since then, and up to the present, a mountain of research –and plenty of warnings- has been generated about this issue, to no avail, even with regard to those recommendations issued by scientific institutions created by the Cuban government.
Every one of them insists that, a few years after investment in the keys started, one could already see the “undesirable environmental effects” and “severe” damages to the vegetation, the habitat of local fauna, the landscape, the soil and the marshes, “as a result of construction.” The damaging effects of the excavation and exploitation of quarries, the clearing of vegetation and the landfill of coastal lagoons have also been pointed out.
Internationally, but especially in the Caribbean, the tourism market that dominates the field are wholesale operators whose goal is short-term profits. Cuba doesn’t escape that reality. In that regard, [investment] agreements are signed without thorough review of environmental issues, and norms become mere formalities, useless paperwork to be filed away in the pertinent archive because Cuba is signatory of international treaties that make the paperwork compulsory.
“The folks that are ultimately responsible for abiding by the requirements become involved in the government, at least minimally,’ Ariel Heredia, a former official of the Ministry of Tourism, assured CubaNet in an interview.
According to Heredia: “In order to implement such madness in the keys, [Castro’s] first step was to name Osmany Cienfuegos Minister of Tourism. It must be said that while he was destroying the northern archipelago, he was cleaning-up the image of the country with his personal ecological project at Las Terrazas, in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, in Pinar del Río province.”  Heredia continues: “He named Guillermo Garcia Frias as Minister of Transportation because the insanity being projected was to build a mega-road. Then in the 1990s, when the tourism projects began, he replaced Garcia Frias with Senen Casas, Julio Casas Regueiro’s brother, the real creator of GAESA from his post as head of the economy department of the Cuban Armed Forces. Later, Manuel Marrero, a military man and GAESA investor, was named Minister of Tourism, the same Manuel Marrero who was recently named Prime Minister (…). Are there problems with the water supply? Do we have to build golf courses and real-estate developments? Well then, who better than Ines Maria Chapman, former president of Hydraulic Resources, to name as vice president?”
Tour operators, as indicated in one of the aforementioned studies, “establish their own commercial conditions, generally expressed in the form of requirements about the operation and function of the hotel proper and (…) in architectural and planning codes, as a condition for sales in countries in need of quick earnings who see themselves having to mortgage their natural capital at the risk of losing it in the future.”
The environmental law in effect is violated constantly, starting with Law No. 81 dating back to July 11, 1997 which deals with environmental protection and the rational use of natural resources, to the actual regulations about the treatment of harmful waste (Resolution No. 15 dated February 13, 1996); the protection, use and conservation of inland water (Decree No. 179 dated February 2, 1993); the use of soils (Decree No. 199 dated April 10, 1995); among other of more recent issuance.
Environmental disasters: not a thing of the past
A document titled Estrategia ambiental nacional 2016-2020 (National Environmental Strategy 2016-2020), published by the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment, describes an environmental panorama similar to that of previous years.
This report exposes not only deficiencies in the planning and setting of priorities that take into available resources, but also insufficient financing, in spite of the fact that the country receives support from various international agencies.
It also speaks about a “limited introduction of scientific, technological and innovation results, or of the environmental dimension of policies, plans, development programs and land-use management.”
In addition, the report states: “As a result, natural resources have been affected to various degrees, in availability as well as quality. There is a significant level of environmental pollution, with a sensitive impact on the state of the various components of the environment and people’s quality of life.”
The document reveals that there are more than 29 quarries being exploited in Coco Key, and at least two quarries in Guillermo Key, which cause the deterioration of both habitats and landscape and result in high levels of pollution due to the solid and liquid waste generated. Add to this the fact that the roads that were built still interrupt the circulation of the water currents and limit exchange with inland waters, which further reinforces pollution and the death of species.
Tourism development has harmed Cuba’s coastal ecosystems (Credit: the authors)
Today, and according to the report quoted above, the greatest source of negative impact on the keys’ ecosystems are the transfer of fuel and other toxic products; the accidental spill of materials; heavy vehicle transit; works to ensure water supply; the pouring of topsoil extraneous to the area; temporary facilities related to construction; the inadequate treatment of liquid waste; and massive tourism. Of lesser importance are the filling of reservoirs and lagoons; quarry exploitation; the dredging of sand; the transport of supplies and materials; and the dynamite explosions.
In spite of the high fragility and ecological sensitivity of Cuba’s coasts, and the apparent “preoccupation” with the environment that Fidel Castro showed in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, from the mid-1990s, the Ministry of Tourism set out to build 50,000 hotel rooms that could lodge a million and a half tourists per year.
By the 1990s, sun and beaches tourism accounted for 74.6% of Cuba’s tourism national product. Today, those plans have been widely surpassed. In the Sabana-Camagüey archipelago alone, by the mid-eighties there were more than 20,000 available hotel rooms, increasing at the rate of 2,000 per year. This performance is similar to that of other areas in the country where the tourism industry is generating equally-damaging environmental catastrophes.
Read in spanish here.
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Russian Tourism to Cuba Is on the Rise. Or Is It More than just Tourism?

HAVANA, Cuba. – The number of foreign visitors to Cuba during the first semester of 2021 reached only 114.440, a very low figure if compared to the same period the year before, and relatively insignificant if compared to the number in 2019 when, during the same six-month period, the number of travelers exceeded 2 million, closing in December with 4.264.558.
We could be speaking of a miracle if, in 2021, the number of foreign visitors were to reach one million. Everything seems to indicate that, in spite of the efforts, the number will be closer to half a million tourists, and only if the Russian market –the only one to increase and thus becoming the main source– remains at the level it has delivered to date.
According to the most recent data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym), 72,304 Russian tourists visited Cuba, a lot more than the 12,207 Cubans from the diaspora (11,4% less than in 2020); 4.719 from Germany (11,9% less); 3.753 from Spain (17.2% less); and 2.296 from Canada (a tremendous decrease to 0,6 % of the 400.000 Canadians that visited Cuba in 2020).
This means that, in trying to face-up to the tourism panic –or so they say– tour operators doing business with the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) are placing their bets on Russia, in spite of the high costs this implies regarding health risks. Russia is one of the countries having the highest incidence of COVID-19 contagion at such a critical time for Cuba with respect to the daily spread of the disease.  
Such a gamble is a desperate attempt that has required making adjustments in services usually reserved for high-standard clients –like Canadians, Europeans and even Cubans from the diaspora, or the millions of American tourists projected during the “Obama thaw” and that, apparently, will never materialize– and not for a leisure market classified as “low-yield” and “least cost-effective”.
In the opinion of experts and officials from the tourism sector, betting on the Russian market is more of an investment in the future –keeping in mind the disheartening forecast for the global market- than a business that would yield considerable and immediate profits. The costs related to the health crisis are much too high, caused -in Cuba’s case- mostly by the opening of tourist destinations in Varadero and at the northern keys in Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey, regions which face a critical and out-of-control situation.
A faculty member from the School of Tourism at the University of Havana, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said to us: “[At the Tourism Ministry] they thought the pandemic would be under control by now. If we study the promotional material of the last three months of last year, a spirit of triumphalism is evident. ‘Cuba beat the coronavirus,’ ‘Cuba is an anti-COVID paradise.’ It is a valid marketing strategy (…). They wanted to take advantage of the moment and corner the regional market, to rate higher than Cancún, than the Dominican Republic, at a time when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, but it’s all coming out wrong. Europe is closed, Canada is closed, so they opted for marketing to Russia where there are no restrictions, without regard to the risks, or to the fact that [Russia] is a low-yield tourism market (…). I think it was a desperate decision, but also a highly political rather than economic strategy, without a doubt. What Cuba is failing to earn from tourism is likely being compensated through other means, like in matters of national security which (to the Cuban government) are urgent at this time, like technology and weapons,” is this professor’s opinion, himself also an economist.
On his part, a former official at MINTUR and at the state enterprise Cubanacan S.A. (who also worked for some time promoting Cuba as a tourism destiny in Moscow and in other Russian cities), is of the opinion that there’s more to the government’s strategy than merely a gamble in a market that “in and of itself, is not promising with respect to tourism.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, this individual stated: “They are selling them high-standard facilities as if they were two and three-star hotels. Russians who come to Cuba are not the same Russians that travel to Europe, Turkey or Egypt. Cuba’s Russians adjust themselves to the “all included” package he or she bought, and takes maximum advantage of it (…). For each dollar invested, Russians yield less than a 10 cents profit (…). I have always asked myself why we kept making such absurd deals when we had products that were better suited to this low-yield market, even at the risk of having less clients or redirecting campaigns aimed at these tourists with money that went to Europe before the pandemic (…). I think the answer is that both governments benefit from the massive flow of people, from it being a constant and considerable flow of Russians to Cuba, and Cubans to Russia for “shopping” tourism, so that this massive human wave that moves back and forth can mask what really interests them: the movement of things more important than just “people sightseeing”.
The most recent statistics released by ONEI indicate a constant growth regarding the arrival of Russian travelers to the island, a total of 63% of all foreign visitors during the first semester of 2021. However, the official statistics do not distinguish between those who arrived solely on vacation (and whose final destination was a tourist facility) and those who visited Cuba on other business. There is no way of knowing if the number of passenger arrivals to Cuba corresponds exactly with the number of guests welcomed as part of a “sun-and-beaches” tourism package.
“The statistics only tell us that more than 70,000 Russians arrived in Cuba, but that doesn’t mean that it was 70,000 tourists,” according to a former Cuban diplomat and professor who resides in Cuba, who was interviewed by CubaNet.
“No doubt there is an increase in tourists. There better be a growth in the number of tourists and an important number at that, because today’s world is not the world of the 1980s. Few things can be kept secret (…) it’s difficult to hide air trafficking, maritime trafficking, especially during a pandemic (…). How do you justify three and four flights a day from Moscow to Havana if not by using tourism as pretext? Of course, they will continue to sell five-star hotels at motel prices (…), if the Russian ambassador says, ‘bring in the tourists’ and ‘stop that PCR tests nonsense’, the Cuban government will abide because it knows what is really at stake (…). Even if half of the island contracts COVID, the Russians will keep arriving in hordes. It’s not just about tourism, that’s the least of it. It’s about what’s kept hidden behind closed doors. (…) Weapons and new technologies required to operate them don’t just “arrive” on their own. We are not talking about a kitchen blender or a mobile phone. When it comes to military matters, you need the trainer and his experience,” states the former Foreign Ministry official.
During the July 11th people’s protests, the Cuban regime released unto the streets thousands of army and police agents dressed as civilians, and also its well-equipped elite forces, well-armed, well-equipped, and trained in anti-riot tactics. This is all supplied by Russia or acquired through million-dollar credits extended systematically to Cuba by the Kremlin.
In April 2015, on the occasion of Ricardo Cabrisas’ visit to Moscow, Russian Minister of Defense, Serguei Shoygu, declared that his country was willing to continue collaborating with the Cuban Armed Forces in order to modernize Cuba’s armaments. In July 2017, Cuba requested technical updating directly from Russia, and it received a transfer of cutting-edge technology. Between 2018 and 2020, Cuba was to receive credits, for the purchase of weapons, directly from the Russians in an estimated US$ 100 million.
In recent days, Russia announced it was sending to Havana two large military aircrafts loaded with “humanitarian assistance”, a gesture that, given Moscow’s preoccupation with developments in the island, would seem to be related more with a desire for a definite end to the protests than with offering relief on the public health front, a crisis that is, in large measure, the result of the massive presence of Russian “travelers” in Cuba.
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The Untouchables of Trust Investing

HAVANA, Cuba. – That a certain Ricardo Martínez Rosales be one of 100,000 Cuban stakeholders may pass unnoticed to most people, but upon learning that he is a grandson of Division General Ulises Rosales del Toro –one of the closest and most loyal of Raúl Castro’s men- and the son of Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta, the present director of the Office of the Historian of Old Havana –the late Eusebio Leal’s replacement- is something to keep in mind.
The more so when the Cuban regime, unexpectedly, has declared war against Trust Investing, and has sent to prison some of its principal operators in Cuba, among them the man who started it all, Ruslan Concepción.
However, contrary to the fate of the few men locked-up and awaiting trial, after their bank accounts were frozen and assets and property confiscated, Ricardo Martínez Rosales has not been bothered by the police. What’s more, he hasn’t even bothered to remove from his Facebook profile the link to his active Trust Investing account, where he identifies himself as user “rickyyy728”.
Ricardo Martínez Rosales, the son of Perla Rosales, is user Rickyyy728 in Trust Investing (Credit: Screenshot from his Facebook page)
Neither has his cousin, Marcos Machado Rosales –the son of Perla Rosa’s sister, Zulema Rosales, and grandnephew of José Ramón Machado Ventura –distanced himself from Trust Investing, although, unlike “Ricky”, he has kept his identity as truster better protected under false names in social media and private chat spaces, from which, apparently, he has continued to invite close friends to participate in this brokerage which has been described on various occasions as a more sophisticated, Ponzi-scheme-like scam.
According to sources close to the Rosales family who gave information to CubaNet, it was at the invitation of cousin Marcos Machado, identified in Trust Investing as “powermark32” and the category of manager, that Ricardo Martínez Rosales and cousins Raúl Rosales and Daniel Machado (born in Russia and presently living in Denmark), joined the cryptocurrency company that has generated so much alarm in the last few months in Cuba.
Other sources that CubaNet consulted, associated directly with Trust Investing who have asked us to respect their anonymity, have confirmed that the first links established by Spanish residents Diego Chaves and Fabiano de Lima with the Panama and Lithuania-registered company (although not physically headquartered in either country), were the result of invitations from Ricardo Martínez Rosales and his cousins Marcos and Raúl. These three presumably joined the company before September 2019, reaching the status of team leader that year, and manager in February 2020. 
Ricardo Martínez Rosales (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
“I bought my first package in September 2019, at Marquito’s invitation. I remember it was September because there was an UJC event (Young Communists Union) at the theater to celebrate the start of the school year,” states one of our sources, a student of Information Sciences University (UCI, by its Spanish acronym) back then, as was Marcos Machado Rosales.
Our source adds: “A couple of months before, my girlfriend, who was a student at CUJAE (the “José Antonio Echeverria” University Center), joined Trust Investing. She went on to study at ISRI (Higher Institute of International Relations) (…). She was invited through the Facebook group (of students and graduates from ISRI) by Raúl Rosales, who still was not a “manager”, because this was just getting started in Cuba (…).  As far as I know, about 20 of us from UCI joined (Trust Investing), all from the same year. At no time did we see any danger, talks were conducted at UCI, openly, no secrets, sometimes at the FEU’s hall (University Students Federation), because for us, this was all legal, myself and others had been invited by people who (you thought) would not be involved in anything illegal. Nothing is more legal here than being a relative of a VIP (…). What happened afterward is that we heard nothing from Trust Investing, we had no access to the account, same thing happened to my girlfriend. We had to join again through another sponsor because something strange happened to the accounts of everyone that joined initially through them.”
Marcos Machado (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
“The first talk took place at the Computer Club in Playa; Richard (Ricardo Martínez Rosales) attended,” states another source interviewed by CubaNet. “Later, there was another talk, larger than the first, it was like a congress, there were more than 100 trusters at the (Computer) Palace Central, so there was nothing to worry about (…) If meetings were being held in those places it was because the government knew about them and approved (…), Machadito (Marcos) was already a team leader, since February (2020); others who were present included cousin Raúl (…) and I remember other privileged boys (…), like Alejandrito Maciques (the grandson of Abraham Maciques, a friend of Fidel Castro and president of Grupo Empresarial Palco). Who would have thought they would jail Ruslan (Concepción)? Those meetings were attended by people from the (Central) Bank, from the (Communist) Party. I still don’t understand what happened.”
Although Ricardo Martínez Rosales and Marcos Machado Rosales reacted on several occasions to Ruslan Concepción’s initial postings about Trust Investing (between June and July 2019}, and considered themselves part of Trust Investing’s “family”, it was not through Ruslan –identified by the media as the main organizer of the company in the island- that they opened their account and their working channels. Instead, according to information we obtained from several sources linked directly to Trust Investing in Cuba, they accomplished that individually, with foreign sponsors, as one among many independent truster networks that operate in the island, in addition to Ruslan Concepción’s own network. It is interesting, however, to note that only the latter has been dismantled by the police, while the rest remain active and promoting themselves on social media.
Raúl Rosales on vacation (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
Ruslan Concepción himself –one of the best-qualified trusters in a global community that spans 90 countries, and has more than half a million members in the planet- stated on his Facebook account on January 20, 2021 (a few months before his incarceration), that his was not “the only Trust Investing network that existed in Cuba” and that, “unfortunately”, there were other sponsors that, unlike him, were only “interested in recruiting people, cashing-in on their commissions, and do not do their job correctly.”
Also on Facebook, Concepción talked about individuals that registered only with relatives or friends, and even with links whose identity “they don’t even know, or are searching and hunting
desperately for fallouts affecting other international leaders with whom they don’t communicate, or they simply look in YouTube for a referral link so as not to pay the commission to the Cuban party that introduced them to the business,” which lets us see just how spread out, fragmented and laden with conflicts of interest the community was before his arrest, in comparison to the image of a sole brotherhood under one person’s leadership that has been projected even in official media.
Then, is the arrest of Ruslan Concepción, identified as the general director of the company in Cuba, a raid against Trust Investing, or is it a settling of scores, given the notable and massive exceptions?  Is Ruslan Concepción the scapegoat in a business whose control the regime (or certain factions within the regime) has lost, the more so when influencers and independent media started talking about the participation of certain state officials in Trust Investing? 
Several members of the Rosales-Machado family are part of Trust Investing (Credit: photo taken from Daniel Machado’s profile on Facebook)
Trust Investing in Cuba: More than the regime would like us to see
If we accept as true the statistics shared by Ruslan Concepción himself, and in addition to the third place that Cuba occupied on the Top 20 in Trust Investing’s 2021 report –third after Spain and Brazil- the enigmatic company has presumably come to group more than 100,000 people in the island.
What Ruslan Concepción launched in Las Tunas in June of 2019, when he was only a “Growth Leader” and not the company’s “Regional Director” (although he presented himself as such on social media from the very beginning), resonated in other places as well, especially at CUJAE and at the University of Information Science (UCI, by its Spanish acronym), from where other independent lines were created with other growth leaders, all of them pioneers of cryptocurrency exploration in Cuba.
“The first talk (that I attended) was held in November 2019,” states Yohana, a graduate from the University of Computer Science (UCI, by its Spanish acronym). Today, she is categorized as “Regional Director” of Trust Investing.
“The talk was held in one of the labs, and as part of the introduction a video of Ruslan’s conference in Las Tunas was shown. Afterward, a professor explained what it was (…). Some of the students, myself included, were already working on cryptocurrency, and I can say that we all joined Trust Investing immediately because we saw nothing strange about it. There was faculty involved, they still are. An official of the Economy Ministry was invited to a conference in 2020; he gave a very good explanation. In fact, Díaz-Canel spoke later on about Cuba’s interest in cryptocurrency. Everything we did we shared transparently on social media; there has never been a complaint, everyone is very happy, everyone is getting their payments, without problems,” states Yohana. When Ruslan Concepción was arrested, she decided to deactivate her accounts on social networks and to continue working anonymously through private groups.
“I don’t think Ruslan’s case was a settlement of scores. They just backpedaled a bit,” is Yohana’s opinion. “They severed the most visible head to divert attention. Regardless, we took our precautions because, if something is clear, it’s that the government gets very angry when Cubans attain financial independence; when Trust Investing started, only two or three people were involved, but by the time Ruslan was arrested, there were thousands of people in Cuba earning more than US$ 300 through an activity that it (the regime) cannot control nor track –at least not to the extent desired- like it does with a paladar or with a mula running contraband,” states Yohana.
Invitation to the first meeting of rust Investing in Cuba circulates in social media (Credit: Courtesy)
The first event of Trust Investing-Cuba took place on Sunday, October 13, 2019 at the facilities of the Las Tunas headquarters of the National Union of Architects and Construction Engineers of Cuba. Ruslan Concepción was in charge of the meetings; at the time, he was the business’ “Expansion Leader” in Cuba. The master of ceremonies was Ramiro Mejías Rodríguez, regional communications support specialist or ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.). Both are being processed today for “illicit economic activity and personal enrichment”.
Nevertheless, as far as some of the “founding trusters” were concerned, the Cuban government intended to promote the company and incentivize participation, but only from official ranks.
Josué, an engineer and CUJAE graduate, and a Trust Investing “manager”, states: “(The Cuban leadership) realized it was a gold mine, but did not foresee that the business could get out of their direct control.” 
In trusters groups on WhatsApp, there are many postings expressing gratitude to Trust Investing (Credit: Courtesy/Screenshot)
“It was about getting the word out, and monitoring just how far the ‘word of mouth’ messaging would reach. All of us who started it were graduates in information science and other engineering disciplines. There were workers from ETECSA, from the (Central) Bank, and other 
executives. Even a nephew of Fidel Castro, grandson of Machado Ventura, was involved. (…) When Diego (Chaves) and Fabiano (de Lima) -CEO and Trust Investing marketing director, respectively- visited Havana in 2019, they met with many people, gave talks in hotels which were promoted on the Internet from the pages of Joven Club (a group managed by the Union of Communist Youth/Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas) without any problem. It all happened without fear of success, as people say. (…) The truth is that there is no criminal definition in the Cuban Penal Code to process this activity as a crime. There is no mention of cryptocurrency activity. I think that the whole thing exploded when the government realized that the number of Cubans who were receiving high earnings from this activity was growing, and all of them are financially independent and not dependent on a government job. They panicked at the prospect of so many people becoming independent from what is regarded as a repulsive government. There is nothing more dangerous for the government than people who are no longer dependent on a salary. And that is the goal,” states Josué, who is also a member of Intelcont Investing, a group with hundreds of trusters in Havana.
Meeting of a Trust Investing group at a Joven Club de Computación site (Credit: Courtesy)
In October 2019, from his Facebook page, Ruslan Concepción referred to the financial independence and prosperity that his type of entrepreneurship would provide. At the beginning, he didn’t talk much about a “before and after” effect for Cuban history based on financial independence of citizens with respect to the State, but his statements early on did not cause the fear they would in subsequent postings.
Other posts on Facebook, like those from October 2020, where he talked about “breaking the barriers, limitations and obstacles that we have always faced,” a clear reference to the Communist Party’s internal blockade, began to rub some in the government’s leadership the wrong way.
Fraudulent or not, Cubans have seen opportunities in Trust Investing (Credit: Private group posting in WhatsApp/Courtesy)
CubaNet interviewed a source from Cuba’s Ministry of the Economy directly involved with cryptocurrency and widely versed on the subject of Trust Investing. On condition of anonymity, this individual told us that Ruslan Concepción’s flaws were “talking too much” and “his vanity”.
“I don’t think I understand his role. Vanity and naïveté did not let him see what he was getting into, he thought he had gotten there on his ability alone and not because he was “allowed” to get there (…). In Cuba, there is a legal vacuum regarding the processing of anything having to do with cryptocurrency, which means that nothing would happen if one gave full range to an economic experiment, especially at a time when all measures taken are out of desperation (…). (The government) was not going to participate directly in an enterprise that was clearly a Ponzi scheme, just like it has not opened an account or created a company in an off-shore tax haven, or that it has people that do it, maybe unaware. There are people in Cuba who have no idea that they are directors in a corporation in Panama or the United Kingdom. They sigh papers here and there, and nothing happens, they know nothing. Here, we sign without reading first. (…) Ruslan began to feel too independent for his own good, to talk about things that are best kept silenced. He, and thousands of followers whose monthly incomes were more than US$ 1000 in bonuses. Something that is insanity in Cuba. And to top it all off, the pandemic broke out, which has driven the government to scour the earth for funds (…). They will not shut down Trust Investing because the company continues to generate money at a time when there are no other funding sources and because there are many “untouchables” in the business (…). Ruslan is like (General) Ochoa in the nineties. One head had to roll in order to shut others up,” claims our source.
As national director, Ruslan Concepción received a considerable monthly bonus (Credit: Facebook)
Trust Investing: Another swindle doesn’t matter
As National Director of Trust Investing, a post he achieved in July 2020, Ruslan Concepción started to receive a monthly bonus of US$ 3000, in addition to the profits from his own participation which, according to public information revealed by Ruslan Concepción himself, in less than two years amounted to more than one million US dollars. Such a fortune, in the Cuban context, which is laden with hardships, stimulated some competitors’ efforts. However, in the opinion of others who are more realistic about the evil side of human nature, it inspired resentment and jealousy.
Aura, a young Cuban physician who is a Trust Investing “team leader”, states: “I don’t think that a regime that steals from its doctors by keeping part of the salaries earned on international medical missions, and also sells donated goods it receives, could care less about another swindle.”
Although labeled in several countries as a fraudulent scheme, Trust Investing is viewed in Cuba as an opportunity for prosperity that the regime does not provide its citizens (Credit: Facebook)
Aura continues: “There is a lot of envy in the Ruslan “affair” (…). Envy from other trusters, and envy from the government. That a guy was walking around with one million US dollars in his pocket? (The government) was not going to allow that. Trust Investing has improved the life of many people in Cuba, people who had no way out of their misery. Look at me, a physician with a specialty. Even I had to resort to this in order to get ahead. It may be a swindle or whatever people call it, but the fact is that it’s helping a lot of people who feel swindled by the government, anyway. If you have to choose, there you have it. Ruslan was the scape goat. No one else who is involved openly in it (Trust Investing), and I mean involved, has been touched.”
On March 29, 2021, Ruslan Concepción, aka Trust Investing user “liberfinanzas21”, announced that he was going for his first “diamond” in the company, a very high investment not reached before by any Cuban. Exactly one month later, he was arrested by the police at the airport in Havana as he was preparing to fly to Russia with his family.
It is estimated that, as of April 2021, there are 190,000 Cuban trusters out of a global count of about 500,000. According to Google Trends statistics, in November 2020, the country most interested in Bitcoin was Cuba. For example, the term “buy Bitcoin” had reached a score of 100 points, the highest score granted, while countries like Argentina and Venezuela, which are large buyers of crypto-assets, did not score higher than 30 points. Internet search for the term “Bitcoin” ranked Cuba as fifth globally, with 48 points.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Cubans are part of Trust Investing (Credit: Internet)
There is speculation that the company will cease promoting itself in Cuba in 2024, at which time its directors will return to private status, no explanations given. In addition to the economic prosperity it has afforded some, Trust Investing has gained prestige not only as investment mechanism and independent association, but also as facilitator of online payments on such things as hotel reservations payable in cryptocurrency; acquisition of services such as Spotify, Netflix, AppStore, Google Play; payment on Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress; Cubacel telephone recharging; and even conversion of digital assets into hard currency that are directly deposited to a card at Banco Nacional de Cuba.
Already labeled as a fraudulent broker in countries such as Panama and Spain. Trust Investing describes itself on its webpage as a digital currency agent, headquartered in Estonia, with divisions within the company such as Trust Wine, which markets Spanish wines; Trust Travel Club, for tourism that is paid with Bitcoin; Trust Diamond, based on the extraction of precious assets such as gold and diamonds; and Truster Coin, for the creation of its own digital currency.
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More about the Dávalos Family: “Daddy Paved the Way”

HAVANA, Cuba. – Every time we set out to research information from the last thirty years about a given litigation or an important case involving the Cuban regime and international law, the name Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández will come up in a second. If not his, then the name of some relative.
A Juris Doctor; a full professor of international private law at the University of Havana; a National Law Award recipient in 2012; and president of the Cuban Arbitration Court (CCACI, by its Spanish acronym) since its founding in 2007, 78-year-old Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández served as arbiter for the Civil and Commercial Court (CIMA, by its Spanish acronym) in Madrid, and for the International Arbitration Court in Paris. He has been much more than just an expert to Fidel Castro and to Raúl, but a right-hand man and counsel who is at the very core of the complex economic web of the Castros, a web he knows to perfection, like no other attorney.
As legal counsel of Cubanacán, S.A. –which was headed by Abraham Maciques, another of Fidel Castro’s right-hand men- Rodolfo Dávalos became, in a short time, the personal attorney to Enrique Martinón; in the early 1990s, he became Assistant Director of the Meliá hotel chain in Cuba. He was also the chief counsel for the Spanish company’s negotiations with China, which shows the trust that Meliá’s president Gabriel Escarrer placed on his business acumen.
The daughter
Located in Madrid is one of the most important law offices in Europe: Uría Menéndez, specialists in commercial law. Their office is the obligatory firm where any foreign businessman must go if he/she wishes to invest in Cuba. Among Uría Menéndez’s clients we find the Meliá hotel chain, and many other foreign companies who have bet on the opportunities at the Mariel Special Development Zone, as well as the British owners of Esencia Hotel and Resort, who shall build The Carbonera Club, the first exclusive resort in Cuba that will boast of a world class golf course.
It is at Uría Menéndez that Lourdes Dávalos León has her office; she is classified by the firm as “Star Associate”.
How was young Lourdes able to be admitted to such an important law firm in 2007, fresh out of law school and with no experience in practicing the profession? The answer is as mysterious as is the true story of how she managed –or someone managed for her- to validate her degree in Europe, when José Luis Toledo Santander, the now President of the Constitutional and Judicial Affairs Commission of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power refused to do so, most likely because he knew nothing about “special plans” that were above and beyond his understanding as mere Dean of the Law School.
“That is a real mystery,” remembers a witness to those events, a professor of the University of Havana Law School: “she was Dr. Dávalos’ daughter, and no one expected that Toledo would behave so intransigently (…), I know there was a confrontation that forced Rodolfo to use all his influence, which is greater and more powerful than Toledo’s, even with his parliamentary position, it doesn’t measure up to Rodolfo’s (…). He even managed to get her exempted from the required social service, which shows even the most naïve individual that higher interests were at stake (…), evidently, they were desperate for her to graduate so they could send her to Madrid as urgently as possible, because it had to do with companies, contracts, bank accounts, all of which are a mystery to everyone and Rodolfo is the custodian of all this which requires discretion, loyalty and trust, and that explains why the structure is the family’s purview, a gargantuan scheme where secrets are passed down from parents to offspring (…). That explains why the arbitration court and the law firm in Madrid (…) are in the hands of the same family (…), (Lourdes) was a very good student, I won’t deny that, but what’s key is that she was Dr. Dávalos’ daughter, and daddy paved the way,” the professor stated.
The truth be what it may, the reality is that having graduated law school in 2007 –which coincided with the founding of the Cuban Arbitration Court under her father’s leadership- That same year, Lourdes Dávalos moved to Spain to matriculate immediately for a Masters in International Business Law at Universidad Complutense in Madrid. This allowed her to register in a short span (2009) with the Madrid Bar Association (her registration number 100622) and to become a member of the Spanish Arbitration Club, in order to start working at the Madrid law firm Eversheds Lupicinio (her professional track can be found on her Linkedin profile). Eversheds Lupicinio had been in charge of business deals with the Cuban state until Uría Menéndez took over the account. In 2011, only four years after graduation, the firm acquired Lourdes Dávalos as “Principal Associate” responsible for its Cuba Archive and as main expert of legal issues with regard to the Mariel Special Development Zone and other investments. Young Lourdes has published several articles about the Mariel Zone and other investments for trade magazines in which she emphasizes the advantages to investing in Cuba and how to go about it.

(Part II of an investigative report conducted by journalist Ulisses Fernández. To read the entire report, please press here)
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Cuban Woman Who Resides in Quebec Implores Her Fellow Canadians: “Help Us so that Our Voice Can Be Heard”

MIAMI, United States. – A few days ago, Giselle Borges, a Cuban woman who resides in the city of Quebec, Canada, posted a video on her Facebook page explaining to the people of Quebec, in French, the events occurring in Cuba since last Sunday, July 11th when thousands of Cubans throughout the island took to the streets to demand freedom and an end to the dictatorship.
Borges, who has lived in Quebec for the last 10 years, tried to explain to her followers why the island is ruled by a dictatorship, and asked them to spread the news of what’s happening in Cuba, in the shadow of international opinion.
“I will not speak of tourism or vacations or trips, but instead, I will speak of the reality that Cubans are living right now. Many of you know my people, many of you have travelled several times to Cuba and have had the opportunity of talking to us, of knowing how we think, and to know what we must endure daily in our country.”
However, she added, “starting this past Sunday, July 11th, the Cuban people said, ‘Enough with this poverty, with the lack of food and medicine, enough!’ Enough without freedom of expression, enough with the dictatorship, we can’t bear it anymore, and we don’t want this dictatorship to linger in our country!”
In the five-minute video, Borges explained that very often, people think that Cuba’s situation is a result of “the (U.S.) embargo, but as a Cuban citizen who lived during 21 years in Cuba, I can assure you that it is not true.”
“Yes, the embargo affects Cuba, but mostly it affects the Cuban government and not the people. Everything about the embargo is clear, everything is written clearly, Cuba must free its political prisoners, Cuba has to hold free democratic elections to have the embargo lifted. However, the Cuban government has no intention of doing that, because all it really wants is to remain in power,” she added.
The young woman condemned the fact that for the last 62 years, the same government has ruled the island, adding that “they are only interested in remaining in power. Repression keeps rising, hunger keeps rising, public health problems keep rising, and the government does nothing, all the while repeating that we have no resources because of the embargo. However, since Sunday, July 11th, the Cuban people are out on the streets demanding their freedom, and all of a sudden, there are resources.”
Giselle Borges also condemned the street violence against unarmed people: “We see cars everywhere, we see trucks full of soldiers everywhere, individuals who evidently are armed, out to fight against people who have no weapons. If you’ve already visited Cuba, you know that there are no weapons on the street, there are no firearms because the government has total control by virtue of having all the country’s weapons, and now, it has released those weapons against the people with the authorization of president-dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel, to kill them. That is what’s happening on our streets today.”
Borges stated that the purpose of the video “is not to make you feel bad or cause you additional stress. It’s really about asking you to support us, to ask you to inform yourselves as much as possible, and most of all, to ask you to share news about what is happening in Cuba, to help make our voices heard through the outside voices –our voices- which we can raise, to post on social media, which is something that Cubans fighting for their lives in the island cannot do because the government cuts access to the Internet every two seconds, leaving them with no access, it’s very difficult, and they are dying in the shadow of international opinion.”
Borges had requested in a prior video posted on social media, that all Cubans who speak a second language should use it as a way of making themselves heard and telling about what the Cuban people are living through. She stated that Cubans are not seeing enough international support, and added: “What’s happening inside Cuba is a massacre.”
In conclusion, she implored: “I repeat, president-dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel has authorized the army to take the streets and to kill Cubans, and that is what is happening. In Cuba, military service is compulsory for young men over 18 years of age, and at this moment, the government is breaking into the homes of those young men and forcing them to confront their own people. They are forced to serve in the Army Reserve, and anyone who refuses to do so is accused of treason, which means “death” in a dictatorship. Therefore, they are compelled to die if they refuse or if they don’t want to kill their fellow Cubans, their brothers, their sisters, their parents.  I beg you to please share and spread this information. Please, help us!”
Read in spanish here.
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The Dávalos Family: The Devil’s Advocates?

HAVANA, Cuba. – Caribbean Ventures Management LLC is a company founded by Rodolfo Dávalos León and incorporated in the state of Delaware in 2016. It is headquartered in Coral Gables, Miami, according to the company’s public reports.
It is a small business that, as suggested by the word “venture”, implies a risk, an adventure, dating to the period between 2014 and 2017 when a few people became enthusiastic about the prospects that Cuban socialism had, at long last, conquered the hearts of some on Capitol Hill and even in the White House.
It has been said that Rodolfo Dávalos founded the company as a favor to a group of young Cubans, some of them graduates of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI, by its Spanish acronym) in Havana, who were among the few entrepreneurs invited to the U.S. Congress between 2016 and 2017. Judging from press photos published about said meetings, which were promoted by the Obama Administration, no peanut street vendor, or 1950’s-antique-car driver, or bicycle-taxi operator –possibly the most genuine representatives of individual entrepreneurship in the heart of Cuba- came to those meetings.
Caribbean Ventures does not promote itself as a large company, but, if we keep in mind that its main objective is the search and management of gastronomic services in Cuba, then we can see the relative success achieved by its main product: a mobile phone APP that today boasts of about 50,000 clients worldwide.
It is noteworthy that AlaMesa is a Cuban application and platform developed in Cuba with Android and iOS versions. It has been highly praised in Granma, the official daily, which has dedicated long promotional reports to it (much to the surprise and anger of its most orthodox readers who are not accustomed to this choice of topic in the official outlet of the Cuban Communist Party). It has also been praised by The New York Times and Forbes Magazine, a feat that would not have been possible were it not for the endorsement of this Cuban young man who resides in Miami, Rodolfo Dávalos León, and has been “godfather” to several independent projects generated from inside the island.
Nothing out of the ordinary should be perceived in the generosity or empathy of this Cuban resident of the United States toward his peers inside Cuba, especially because, on his social media profiles -which were public until recently but are today either private, inactive, or have vanished- he reveals how much he loves the American way of life.
What does this charismatic, 32-year-old young man really do that is different, notable and even rare if compared to any other Cuban American? Perhaps the answer is in his family name.

Rodolfo Dávalos next to Luis Alberto Rodríguez López Calleja, GAESA (Photo Facebook)

Rodolfo Dávalos next to Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla

Rodolfo Dávalos next to Díaz-Canel (Photo: Facebook/Rodolfo Dávalos León)

Dávalos, a brand more than a surname
If, in exercising his or her rights as legitimate owner of confiscated property, someone today filed a claim against a foreign corporation doing business in Cuba because that corporation is profiting from said confiscated property, he or she will come up repeatedly with a specific surname in all the paperwork that the lawsuit generates for as long as it lasts.
As such, the Dávalos surname will come up in texts on commercial law and legal counseling as well as on the letterhead of hundreds of memos and documents produced in the course of the complex proceedings at arbitration courts.
Keep in mind that the surname which comes up the most is that of Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández, who presides over the Cuban side that handles these matters for the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, and has even practiced before the Court of Arbitration in Paris. His daughter, Lourdes Dávalos León, is in charge of the Cuba archive at one of the principal law offices in Madrid, offering legal advice to businessmen, be they European or not, looking to invest in the Caribbean island.
Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández (Credit: Screenshot)
As we have seen, there are other Dávalos playing the same field, whose principal operations are headquartered in Europe, Cuba and the United States.
This coincidence could lead some to ask themselves if young Rodolfo Dávalos León, Lourdes’ brother, could have served as intermediary between the Cuban government and groups of businessmen and politicians who favor an understanding and an exchange between the government in Havana and the U.S. government.  We don’t know. However, it is curious that he was very active a couple of years back as an investment analyst, or as intermediary, during the time Barak Obama started the thaw of relations with Havana.
Even his career, at least in the United States, began to excel a few years before, although focused primarily on what was to happen that December 17, 2014, as if he had presaged or calculated it.
Dávalos, that surname turned obligatory reference brand for politicians and foreign investors interested in Cuba, also is familiar, although not too much so, to law students at the University of Havana during the last four decades. It is also known to anyone who remembers every international litigation that involved the Cuban government as defendant, plaintiff, summoned party, or even referenced entity, in matters unpleasant in nature, since they always have to do with breech of contracts, frozen bank accounts, confiscations, accumulated debts, fraudulent practices against businessmen, blackmail, espionage and psychological manipulation, as was the case of Elián González.
Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández served as counsel in the first major foreign investment operation that took place in Cuba at the end of the 1980s. It involved the construction of over 1,400 guest rooms in 4 and 5 star hotels in Varadero, plus 200 bungalows, golf courses and a residual water-treatment system by the Spanish corporate group Meliá.
Later, Dávalos Fernández would become assistant director of Meliá-Cuba, as well as personal attorney to Spanish businessman Enrique Martinón, and helped set up off-shore companies in Panama and in Europe. Not surprising, then, that his name, associated with the Mossack Fonseca law firm, was among the first to surface when the Panama Papers scandal broke.
Panama’s legal registry of off-shore company, listing Martinón and Dávalos as Treasurer and Secretary, respectively (Credit: Screenshot)
His name appears, also, in several commercial registries in Panama, as director and secretary of Oceanic Estates S.A. and Arsia International S.A., the latter registered in 1987 (Folio number 186543 by resident agent Morgan & Morgan) and linked to Italian Mauro Casagrandi, who served as ambassador of the Order of Malta in the 1980s and is said to have worked as a double agent of Cuba’s secret service (“Mauro Casagrandi Double Agent for Cuba, page 170”) until he broke with the regime in the early 1990s.
In the course of this practically-uninterrupted time line, up until today, Dávalos Fernández has led the legal teams in several cases: in the case of the five Cuban intelligence agents –the Wasp Network- found guilty of espionage in the U.S.; in the dispute against Chilean businessman Max Marambio (El Mercurio, Chile, July 26, 2013) and his company Río Zaza; as well as in the famous case of Elián González. In an interview on Cubasí, dated March 26, 2013, Dávalos Fernández stated that: “The ‘Five’, Elián, the blockade, they are all revolutionary causes to which I have dedicated a considerable part of my life; they are causes of the Fatherland.”
(Part I of an investigative report conducted by journalist Ulises Fernández. To read the entire report, please press here)
Read in spanish here.
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The Black Lives Matter Movement: The Lives that Really Matter

HAVANA, Cuba. ─ When George Floyd was assassinated in May 2020, many Cubans trimmed their Facebook profiles with references to the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). Up to that moment, little was known about the organization, founded in 2013, aimed at defending the rights of African Americans and fighting against white supremacy and police violence against Black communities. Allegedly, it was a not-for-profit organization, with a deep humanistic mission that went beyond the issues of race to include also, as part of its premise, the plight of the downtrodden classes and those who are marginalized and whose rights are violated.
In the wake of Mr. Floyd’s brutal death, Cubans of all races expressed their solidarity with the movement, although they never raised their voices or wrote a post on social media, to condemn Cuban police violence when two uniformed cops shot young Hansel Hernández Galiano in the back, in a still-unexplained incident in the Guanabacoa municipality. That attitude revealed the ambivalence of “anti-racist” Cubans, and the same has happened with the leadership of Black Lives Matter in their recent statement about the July 11th protests.
In their declaration –which will forever shame the leadership of the movement- the organization’s spokesmen have aligned themselves with the official discourse of the Cuban dictatorship, blaming exclusively the U.S. embargo for the vulnerable situation facing the island, thus exonerating the Cuban regime from all responsibility for its 62 years of failed tenure. It would seem that no Blacks and no poor Cubans took to the streets in so many neighborhoods throughout Havana. The Cubans who demonstrated up and down the rundown streets of La Cuevita –one of the poorest neighborhoods where Cubans of all races live, but mostly Black and Brown individuals- apparently were not Black.
It’s not about the left or the right. It’s about human decency to take the side of an oppressed people who have endured for years severe social traumas only to watch them swept under the rug because “the time is never right” to discuss them. It should suffice to watch the July 11th videos to corroborate just how many Black-and-Brown Cubans were beaten by the police, and how many were mobilized to repress their brothers and sisters. This has revealed the terrible conflict that confirms just how effectively Cuba’s white government elite has “divided and conquered” and sown hatred between people who once shared a common cause.
With its pronouncement, the present leadership of the BLM has betrayed the organization’s principles. That their agenda is eminently political has become self-evident. Far from a progressive movement, it has become a breeding ground for doctrines that endanger American democracy.  An entity that supports the Castro dictatorship leaves no room for speculation. The progressive side which won BLM so many sympathizers seems to bear the seeds of totalitarianism, a persistent DNA print that spreads everywhere individual liberty shows the slightest weakness.
The lives that matter to the BLM leadership are olive green, the ones that don neat guayaberas to whitewash a corrupt and expansionist military regime. The last thing that seems to concern that leadership is a Black man who has been humiliated, no matter where it may happen. We are confident that many BLM sympathizers do not agree with the organization’s support of the Cuban dictatorship. However, in eight years, BLM has gone from being a true social movement to being a lucrative business, their present leadership bent on reviving resentment between the races, and buying mansions where they can concoct their next campaign, or wait until the next African American is killed by a while policeman to go for the jugular of power in order to impose a single, distorted and virulent vision of a problem that is very complex.
The BLM leadership has shown itself to be like the Castro dictatorship. To choose only one aspect of the truth is not to defend truth, least of all when the aim is to please a political ally. Its statements have deeply disappointed honorable Cubans, both in the island and abroad, who today demand freedom and count many of their brethren among the wounded and disappeared following the protests.
Joe Biden was not the president who called for civil war. It wasn’t the “blockade” that clubbed Cuban citizens on the head. It was not “imperialism” that summoned the pack of special-forces thugs to attack unarmed people, artists, intellectuals, students, physicians, teachers. The White House did not provoke the pain that shakes all of Cuba today, and the present BLM leadership is very cynical to deliberately ignore the excesses of a regime that last July 11th reenacted the abuse perpetrated against George Floyd with hundreds of Cubans.
It matters not whether it was a knee choking the life out of someone, or a club smashing the head of a young man. They were defenseless human being against squadrons of regime supporters willing to kill. If BLM’s leadership cannot see the similarities, then their principles and purpose are false. Humanism has no political color, and it is, by its very nature, immune to brainwashing.
Today’s Black Lives Matter movement has shown a lamentable face.  We will never forget its position against the Cuban people and democracy, shamelessly supportive of the white-supremacist agenda of a dictatorial regime that has kidnapped their country and punished its citizens mercilessly.
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ETECSA Blocks Messages that Contain the Words VPN or Psiphon

HAVANA, Cuba. – One of the first measures to be enforced by the Cuban state to try to stop coordination of anti-government protests in the country, was to block access to the Internet.
VPN applications (Virtual Private Network) like Psiphon, Bunny VPN, 1111, among others, have been very helpful in enabling people to fight against the regime’s imposed censorship during the last week in the island.
Disinformation and an extremist official discourse on radio and television have been the strategies that the authorities have followed. They still have not un-blocked access to social media networks or to the Internet.
CubaNet has been able to corroborate that messages that include SMS texts with the words Psiphon or VPN are being blocked and do not reach the intended recipient.
“They are employing filters to block SMS messages in order to stop the use of VPN applications. [The authorities] know that they constitute a way to circumvent Internet censorship, and especially censorship of social media networks; the authorities fear this alternative access at this time because of the convening power that they exert,” an ETECSA mobile-network user commented to CubaNet on condition of anonymity.
The source added: “It’s not the first time that this has happened. As users, we know that we are exposed and have no privacy. On other occasions, words like “human rights” and “hunger strike”, among others, also have been filtered by ETECSA, and messages never reached their intended recipients.”
Eduardo Gómez, a computer scientist in Havana, stated to CubaNet: “In the last few hours, I have seen many posts on Facebook, especially by Cuban cyber-spies, threatening people who are using VPN applications with the cancellation of their connections by ETECSA. I believe this is “fake news” that the authorities have gotten out there in their desperate struggle against VPN applications and their great ability to circumvent Internet interference at this time. They would have to cancel millions of lines, and they cannot do that.”
Psiphon uses VPN, SSH and proxy HTTP technologies to provide uncensored access to Internet content.
The platform, which this Friday reported more than one million visits per day from inside Cuba, has become one of the paths to access the Internet after the regime blocked access to social media in the wake of last Sunday’s massive protests.
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Psiphon Breaks Censorship: More than 1 Million Logins per Day from inside Cuba

MIAMI, United States. – Yesterday, Psiphon registered more than 1 million logins from inside Cuba, according to the managers of the platform, designed to circumvent censorship on the Internet.
“Yesterday, 1.389 million daily unique users accessed the open web from Cuba through the Psiphon network. Internet is on; circumvention tools are working. This figure continues to increase, with today reaching 1.238 million as of 12:00 EST (16:00 UTC)” wrote its developers on Twitter.
Psiphon uses VPN, SSH and proxy HTTP technologies to provide uncensored access to content on the Internet. The product’s web page explains that the network automatically configures “new points of access to maximize the chances of avoiding censorship.”
The platform has become one of the ways that Cubans have found to access the Internet after the regime blocked the main social media platforms in the wake of last Sunday’s massive protests that started this past Sunday, July 11th.
It has been practically impossible to access social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram without using private virtual networks, the ones known as VPN, of which Psiphon is among the best known.
It should be noted that VPN services change the location of the user, which is what allows for the circumvention of censorship in countries like Cuba, where websites are blocked constantly.
A CubaNet team was able to corroborate that yesterday, access to Internet services was available for a few hours, but it was interrupted again in the evening by the tele-communications company (ETECSA, by its Spanish acronym), the state enterprise that holds the monopoly on accessing technology in the island.
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Dear Tourists: It’s Time You Knew Why We Are Protesting in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba. – Yes, you, dear tourist. You who have doubts about why thousands of men and women will continue to protest in the streets of Cuba against the dictatorship and on social media, really have no clue about what it means for Cubans to survive in this country on a daily basis.
If you are among those who have come “to visit” and have the impression that you have visited paradise, then I must tell you that your disbelief comes not from doubt, but from cynicism, indifference, opportunism and complicity, because here in this island, misery –material as well as human- is palpable everywhere.
Why? Because, from the infinity-edge pools of the hotels in Havana, from the windows of your hotel room, even from the make-belief Cuban-style familiarity of an Airbnb, you have not really “enjoyed the local color”. In truth, you have been duped, or what’s worse: you had fun and reveled in our daily tragedies.
Did you know that a few yards from any site you might have visited in Havana, and due to the collapse of balconies, roofs and walls; due to the many buildings that come down so frequently they are no longer news; and because of the crumbling down of those urban ruins that “adorn” your photographs… because of all of that, every year, children, men and women die crushed under the debris? Did you ever care to find out why, in spite of living in perpetual mortal danger, families continue to live there?
The regime, and the parasites that live under its shadow, will tell you that it is due to the “blockade”. They will tell you that the U.S. economic embargo bars them from the resources with which to erect decent housing. However, after you have observed closely the well-fed bellies and the healthy rosy cheeks of every one of Cuba’s communist rulers, let me invite you to investigate a little bit about just how many hotels they have built -and continue to build- with “Cuban funds”, without need of foreign capital, as well as the number that, once inaugurated, will fill to 30% capacity year-round, and how many more remain abandoned since long before the pandemic.
This means that, if you are just slightly perceptive, you will notice quickly that something very strange has been happening in our economy. You could affirm, then, that for each hotel room that is built, another 10 family homes are added to the inventory of uninhabitable houses for reasons specified as “in danger of collapse”.
Also, it would be an interesting exercise to take the math a little further to compare the deteriorated hotel-room inventory against the real capacity of available lodging for tourists.
You could find out –because you have much more access to Internet than your average Cuban, and more free time without worrying about how you will feed your family – about the evident disproportion between a ration of food that a Cuban individual might be able to eat after fighting like a starving dog on a food line, and the food served to a foreigner at the least lavish buffet table of the lowliest hotel.
I can assure you that your notion about “eating” has nothing to do with our reality, and not because our culinary culture differs from yours, or because our idiosyncrasies are different, but, because of political perversity inasmuch as personal wellbeing and prosperity are used as tools of social control.
As such, while food and additional amenities were “assigned” to government leaders and their families throughout these 62 years of dictatorship becoming habitual and charged to the public treasury, so has supplying the markets where we Cubans buy without privileges or remittances from abroad, dwindled. 
The “endemism” of our national hunger has been further encouraged by dozens of state companies that import food and supplies while being run by indolent and corrupt administrators; our agriculture and cattle industries are mired in chaos, in addition to the countless obstacles with which the Communist Party hinders individual initiatives. Let me give you a few examples.
To profit, personally or collectively, from an abandoned plot of land requires a thousand permits from a gang of bureaucrats. Relative to what they earn, and taking into consideration the guarantees provided by law, an old lady who sells homemade food and snacks from her home or at the local street corner, pays more taxes and is more harassed by state inspectors than is the foreign entrepreneur whose hotel consumes, in a single day, the entire supply of water, gas and electricity for a small municipality like Old Havana. Going fishing on a rowboat, without a permit, is almost a matter of “national security”.
And, since I mentioned “sailing”, something that would be a normal activity in any Caribbean island, let me assure you that, from aboard the cruise ship on which you travelled here, or from the yacht where you sunbathed and sipped mojitos, you did not enjoy the view of virgin beaches or keys. You barely saw the desolation of a country laden with prohibitions against us who were born here and live here, relying on a monthly salary that covers one’s livelihood only for a couple of days.
If truth be told, because your pockets were full of US dollars, you enjoyed “privileges” that are forbidden to the average Cuban. For, you see, the average Cuban is considered a second-class citizen, whom the Communist regime forbids from boarding a vessel that will take him or her beyond a mere Kilometer from the coastline, because at the point beyond one Kilometer, a Cuban is no longer a citizen, but a deserter, as if the country were an army barrack and we Cubans were slaves on a plantation.
(We don’t classify as slaves only because our wages are low and below the established level of poverty in the world –we cannot even consider ourselves as living at the poverty level- or because we are paid in worthless currency that has no purchasing power).
You who cast doubts on our demands, on the legitimacy of the people’s protests, have no idea of how fed-up we are, of the magnitude of our accumulated exhaustion and frustrations, of how, in older Cubans, after decades of fear and hopelessness, this has mutated into apathy. But not so with younger men and women who mostly are free from fear and silly ideological commitments. They have become explosively irate, and have rebelled.
If my brief explanation were not sufficient for you to understand what is happening, then I invite you to return, but not as a tourist, not with dollars or euros in your pocket. Return with no intention of complaining loudly if you are disappointed, because to complain –to protest-  publicly in Cuba, for whatever reason, is a crime for which one pays dearly with ostracism and even prison. But you don’t have to believe me. You can corroborate it for yourself. Come back with empty pockets, empty like ours whether we be physicians, engineers, writers or workers.
Come with only the enthusiasm you profess for communism from your capitalist society, with your admiration for “Che” and Fidel from a distance and not from your own experience. Come back only with your slogans, look for a job, any job you please, and then make an attempt to buy or rent a house – what am I saying, “a house”! – a room at the verge of collapse is more like it. And do tell me if you are able to accomplish that. Try, with your hard-earned income, to feed your family and provide then with the other material and spiritual amenities that are basic for human welfare. Do it. I assure you that your doubts, as well as your faith in our “tropical communism”, will vanish.
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EDITORIAL: Cuba has chosen the path to freedom, and it’s vital not to leave her alone

HAVANA, Cuba. – July 11th is already inscribed in Cuba’s history as the true day of national rebellion. Thousands of Cubans who took to the streets in almost every province, besieged by hunger, shortage of medicines, lack of individual freedoms and an increase in the number of people taken ill or deceased from COVID-19, dismantled in a few hours the grotesque farce of the last 62 years, as well as the official discourse about CIA-financed counterrevolution that the Castro regime has repeated persistently since the events of November 27, 2020.
Amidst shouts of “Freedom”, “Fatherland and Life” and “We Are Not Afraid”, the spark of rebellion started in the town of San Antonio de los Baños, and spread throughout the island, triggering strong police repression.  Cubans who experienced the Maleconazo protests (Havana, 1994) admit that nothing like this had ever been witnessed, for its massive and simultaneous characteristics. The dictatorship, as would be expected, chose to respond aggressively and to bully the demonstrators.  During a rough television appearance, a visibly-shaken president Miguel Díaz-Canel responded with the same old rhetoric, blaming the US. embargo and the U.S. administration. In his diatribe, as weak and erratic as it was at certain moments, he ended by calling for civil war when he stressed that “the streets belong to the revolutionaries’ and summoned the regime’s supporters to confront legitimate civilian protests, which he described as “provocations orchestrated from abroad”, a completely false statement.
If such was the exile community’s agenda, then the regime should admit that it would be in perfect consonance with the Cuban people’s wishes. The people were never consulted by the Díaz-Canel government as to the dollarization of the economy; the arrival of Russian tourists amid new outbreaks of the pandemic; the export of twelve million vaccines to Venezuela when only a little more than one million Cubans have been vaccinated; the remittance of medicines to Nicaragua while Cuban hospitals are lacking even in basic analgesics, and so many other important decisions that have been made unilaterally, demonstrating that the government’s agenda has nothing to do with the needs of the people.
If the protests were organized by Cuban exiles, then Díaz-Canel should recognize that the Cuban exile community’s convening power is greater than that of his government, and that the internal opposition is very well organized from one end to the other of the Cuban archipelago, something which the regime has always denied.
Díaz-Canel lied without gagging, protected by the media apparatus that operates at the service of the Communist Party of Cuba, and by the interruption of internet services nation-wide, thus preventing access to first-hand information about what really happened in San Antonio de los Baños, where truckloads of “Red Berets” forces attacked protesters, beating-up and arresting dozens of people before his arrival and subsequent stroll down the now-empty streets, surrounded by State Security agents. In other provinces, the National Revolutionary Police, the Special Forces, and thugs from the secret police brutally charged against the protesters, most of whom were women. The image of a photographer from Associated Press has gone viral, his broken nose bleeding after being attacked by the police while covering the protest in from of the Radio and Television Institute (ICRT, by its Spanish acronym) where several young artists were violently arrested.
Díaz-Canel’s call to hatred has unleashed tragic events in a matter of days. The country has been left incommunicado to prevent the world from witnessing in real time the brutality and vicious harassment of the regime’s Special Forces against civilians. In a few more days, we will know exactly the number of people killed, gravely wounded and arrested, but already the Díaz-Canel government, steered from the shadows by the Castro family, is being called by the name it deserves in the entire world.
Díaz-Canel has stated that Cuba does not need humanitarian assistance, and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla has denied that a social outbreak has occurred, calling the events of July 11th “disturbances, vandalism and undisciplined behavior by counterrevolutionary elements.” However, the regime, and all of Cuba, knows that it was not a mere handful of civilians here and there, but thousands of people throughout the country, citizens that have had enough with the terrible situation that the island is facing. Díaz-Canel insists on calling the protesters “mercenaries and confused revolutionaries”, stressing once again how much he and his government despise the right of Cubans to step out of the rigid ideological box imposed on them six decades ago.
The events of July 11th showed that the change that Cuba demands is not a matter of “mercenaries on the CIA payroll”.  The genuine will of the people rejects the Díaz-Canel government and the continuation of a political system that has left the country extremely vulnerable and subject to unsurmountable political corruption at every level.
In this crucial context for the future of the island, some “analysts” have hinted at the possibility that president Joe Biden might agree to lift restrictions on remittances, a concession that would be contrary to the full freedoms that Cubans desire. Cuba’s problem will not be solved by placing more money in the hands of a dictatorship whose main premise is unproductiveness and whose control over the population is based on unstable, almost feudal, economic policies. To free-up remittances would be equivalent to accommodating the regime’s habit of importing to then re-sell to the people in hard currency and at inflated prices, the junk that China and the European Union makes available at bargain prices. Beyond a good-will gesture, it would be counterproductive.  As long as the State capitalizes all resources and investments, there will be no opportunity for private-sector growth, nor for the individual citizen.
Cuba has chosen the road to freedom, and judging from Díaz-Canel’s message, it will be attained only through new traumas and deaths. If the community of democratic nations really holds us in high regard, it should be watchful: the Castro regime will not hesitate for a minute to unleash the army against defenseless civilians. It is then that we shall know just how true the expressions of affection and solidarity from free nations toward “the Cuban people”, really are.
Today, July 14th, Cuba remains disconnected from the world by a decision from the Communist Party. This imposed silence is a lethal threat, and Cubans around the world must pay close attention. Díaz-Canel assured his audience that change would only be possible “over the dead bodies of revolutionaries”, in spite of the fact that the Cuban opposition is a peaceful opposition, as has been amply demonstrated.
Those who dream of a free Cuba do not want any deaths, but if there are any, on either side, the responsibility will fall on the Castro family, on Miguel Díaz-Canel, on the Ministiry of the Interior, on the Armed Forces, and on the official press, which continues to deny what is blatantly evident and thus would contribute, through its unethical conduct, to the killers’ impunity.
Inside the island, the people will continue to take to the streets, with a Nation’s pain, and a Nation’s pride. It is vital and urgent that they not be left alone.
Read in spanish here.
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