Cuba Reins In Entrepreneurs Who Take Free Enterprise Too Far

Aug 2, 2017

A Coral Gables business consultant watched one day in June as Cuban authorities carried out chairs, tables, plates, sound systems and bottles of imported liquor from a popular private restaurant near the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

“They took everything except the drywall and loaded it into a green truck,” said Saul Cimbler, president of U.S.-Cuba Business Advisory. He happened upon the scene outside El Litoral — a stylish paladar known for its high-end cuisine and customers — just as officers from the Technical Department of Investigations were carting off its fixtures.

Several other Havana paladares and at least two in Camagüey province in central-eastern Cuba also have reportedly been closed.

The public face of El Litoral and also the reputed owner of Lungo Mare and Dolce Vita is Alejandro Marcel Mendivil, who neighbors say has been arrested. The independent Cuban digital publication 14ymedio, however, reported that the name on the license for El Litoral is Mendivil’s mother, Nardis Francisca Mendivil, who denied ownership of the other two restaurants.

Owning a few restaurants wouldn’t be a big deal in most places. But in a recent address to the National Assembly of People’s Power, Cuban leader Raúl Castro made it clear that rules will be enforced, and anyone who hopes to start a mini-empire with multiple private businesses is mistaken. New regulations, he said, would be forthcoming.

The National Assembly, Cuba’s parliament, passed updated economic guidelines during its recent session that said a “concentration of property and financial and material wealth” wouldn’t be permitted in the non-state sector.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.