In a recent blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a prominent American membership organisation and think-tank, research associate Valerie Wirtschafter assesses the course of the “Cuban Renaissance” that is apparently now under way thanks to domestic reforms and the diplomatic thaw with the United States.
Based on her own mid-Renaissance visit to Cuba earlier this year, Wirtschafter remarks on some counterintuitive aspects of the expanding tourism industry on the born-again island.
“The hotel industry in particular – including the State run Hotel Nacional in Havana – seems to glorify the country’s gangster past, a violent history that partially spurred popular support for Fidel Castro’s Revolution.”
She goes on to comment on the “equally bewildering” collision of universes that transpired when celebrity socialite Paris Hilton and Castro’s son were photographed taking selfies together at a Havana cigar festival in February. The ex-Hilton hotel in Havana, opened in 1958 by the heiress’ grandfather, was one of the revolution’s first casualties when Castro commandeered it as a provisional headquarters the following year
Nowhere does the article mention a certain – perhaps far more bewildering – fact: that Cuba’s “gangster past” and “violent history” were largely a product of US government policies and machinations by the American Mafia. In the wake of Castro’s triumph, both entities continued to help ensure that Cuba was continually beset by counter-revolutionary violence.
Gambling colony, gangster state
Historian Jack Colhoun documented the evolution of the nexus between the American state and organised crime in his exhaustively researched book “Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966″.
Cuba’s debut as what Colhoun called a “neocolony” of the US took place at the end of the 19th century when the latter intervened in the Cuban war of independence from Spain, effectively nipping the whole “independence” option in the bud and appointing itself Cuba’s new master.
The arrangement led to the US appropriation of Cuban territory for a naval base-cum-future-torture-centre at Guantanamo Bay, along with other goodies. By the mid-20th century, Colhoun wrote, Cuba had become “a virtual economic appendage” of the US, with Americans controlling many of its sugar mills, railways, and utilities, and inundating the island with US brands.
The author detailed how the establishment of a “mafia gambling colony” in Cuba starting in the 1930s was facilitated by a special relationship between North American mobsters and Fulgencio Batista, two-time Cuban ruler and one-time dictator. Batista received a cut of the profits from mafia operations and oversaw the conversion of Cuba into a “full-fledged gangster state”.
The casinos provided money-laundering opportunities for other lucrative businesses, as well. In 1946, the mafia-run Hotel Nacional hosted a summit of US underworld leaders to lay the foundations for converting the island into a heroin trafficking hub.
No beard, no revolution
When the Cuban revolution brought down the curtain on the gangster state, Colhoun explained, the mobsters regrouped with their corrupt political allies in the Cuban exile movement in the US, where they “squared the circle of gangsterismo” by plotting with the CIA to assassinate Castro
For More: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/07/cuba-history-organised-crime-united-states-neoliberalism-150719090821297.html