CubaBrief: Department of the Treasury’s OFAC sanctions Raul Castro’s former son-in-law who manages conglomerate linked to Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels

Earlier today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List and added Cuban general Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas.

Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas is a former son-in-law to Raul Castro and father to two of his grandchildren, and oversees the Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A., better known by its acronym GAESA that has funneled billions of dollars into the coffers of the Castro clan.  

Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas

Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas

According to Pedro Roig of the Cuban Studies Institute, General Rodriguez Lopez Callejas “leads GAESA, a gigantic conglomerate of state and mixed enterprises that manages over 65% of the legal and illegal financial deals of the Cuban Government (highly secret operation), including the Port of Mariel’s developing enterprises, and a distribution partnership with the Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels.  General Rodríguez is the czar of the economy and a powerful heir to the military dynasty. Member of the Communist Party Central Committee.”

Interviewed in the Miami Herald  on September 28, 2020 Emilio Morales, president of The Havana Consulting Group, reported that “the Cuban military, which controls remittances, the tourism industry, and several chain stores, has benefited from remittances to the island, appropriating nearly 74 percent of every dollar sent by Cuban exiles. Morales, who has been tracking the money sent to Cuba over the years, estimates that since 1993, Cuba has received around $46.8 billion in remittances. Almost $20 billion passed through the hands of the Cuban military.”

Until at least 2012 General Rodriguez Lopez Callejas was married to Raul Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espin. He is the father of Raúl Guillermo and Vilma Rodríguez Castro, grand children of Raúl Castro. Raúl Guillermo is also a bodyguard for Raul Castro.

Source: cubaaldescubierto.com

Delfin Fernandez, alias agent Otto, a former member of Cuba’s counterintelligence services, on June 24, 2001 gave Diario 16, A Spanish language newspaper in Madrid that ran from 1976 to 2001, an exclusive interview in which he revealed the organizational chart of Raul Castro’s companies and his business connections abroad at the time.

According to Delfin Fernandez, “GAESA is controlled totally by Raul Castro’s son-in-law. It is through GAESA that ‘moneys are stashed away abroad.’ Otto adds: ‘The funds never make it to the state Treasury; this operation runs parallel to the country’s economy. The group is enormous: it invoices close to one billion dollars annually. In 1997, Luis Alberto Rodriguez confided to a foreign businessman in my presence that GAESA had recently invoiced 970 million dollars.'”

Sanctions targeting GAESA, and its subsidiaries and key personnel such as Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas have forced the Castro regime to open up sectors of its economy to generate income. This is in marked contrast to what was happening before the current policy. Ambassador Otto J Reich in his Miami Herald OpEd published on July 9, 2020 reported that under the prior policy “instead of favoring the small private sector in Cuba, the massive new inflow of dollars from U.S. tourism and remittances was mostly captured by the military-commercial conglomerate GAESA, run by Castro’s former son-in-law. GAESA expelled private entrepreneurs, who had been increasing in numbers prior to the opening, from profitable tourist areas and replaced them with pro-government establishments.”

Cuban Studies Institute, March 2020

The Military Elite of Cuba

The Castro Totalitarian Legacy

Pedro Roig J.D. and Alvaro Alba M.A.
Reviewed by Jaime Suchlicki, Ph.D.

Biographies available here.

From the Archives

Diario 16 June 24, 2001

The Economic Power of the Castro Brothers

Delfin Fernandez, alias agent Otto, a former member of Cuba’s counterintelligence services, has given Diario 16 an exclusive interview in which he reveals the organization chart of Raul Castro’s companies and his business connections abroad.

G. Fernández and M.A. Menéndez
Diario 16
June 24, 2001

General Raul Castro Ruz is much more than the nominal “number two” man of the Cuban government. He heads the Armed Forces Ministry (MINFAR) that gives Fidel’s regime an aura of stability and confidence in the face of foreign threats. Raul’s busy office is located on the fourth floor of the Ministry, on Boyero Street in Havana. From his desk he handles matters that are definitely not military in nature but depend directly on the MINFAR: the Business Administration Group (Grupo de Administración Empresarial, GAESA), one of the regime’s economic networks.

Raul’s second in command and confidant, Division General Julio Casas Regueiro, chairs the board of GAESA. Right under him, as chief executive officer, the Castro brothers named Major Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas, who is married to Raul’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espin. Rodriguez, then, is Raul Castro’s son-in-law.

Luis Alberto Rodriguez’s office is also located on the fourth floor of the Ministry. In addition, he heads the MINFAR’s Section V; this unit is in charge of the Armed Forces’ economic activity. “It’s all in the family,” says ex-agent Otto.

According to our various sources, GAESA is of utmost importance to the Castro clan. There are several income-generating companies under the GAESA umbrella that theoretically belong to the Armed Forces. However, they have nothing to do with what we could call the State’s holding. GAESA is controlled totally by Raul Castro’s son-in-law. It is through GAESA that “moneys are stashed away abroad.” Otto adds: “The funds never make it to the state Treasury; this operation runs parallel to the country’s economy. The group is enormous: it invoices close to one billion dollars annually. In 1997, Luis Alberto Rodriguez confided to a foreign businessman in my presence that GAESA had recently invoiced 970 million dollars.”

Among the most important companies in the GAESA holding is the tourism group Gaviota. Gaviota operates more than thirty hotels throughout the island, and has another eleven under construction. Brigadier General Luis Perez is Gaviota’s director.

Gaviota’s importance stems from its business relations abroad: in Spain, Tryp Hotels, owned by Max Mazin, Antonio Briones and Rufino Calero, and Sol Meliá owned by Gabriel Escarrer, which Tryp recently bought; in France, the Novotel hotel chain, and Club Mediterrané. Income generated by the tourism industry is an important source, but not the only one. Another GAESA company is Agrotex SA, which deals with everything related to agriculture and cattle, from animal breeding farms to candy factories to the manufacture of honey and general food products.

Then there is Tecnotex SA, a key GAESA endeavor under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Rojas. Tecnotex imports and exports every product needed by the other companies in the holding. Its special characteristics makes of Tecnotex the ideal front for introducing state-of-the-art, dual-purpose (civilian and military application) technology into Cuba of the kind barred by the U.S. embargo.

Another tourism-linked company is Aerogaviota SA under the direction of Colonel Brito. Aerogaviota operates its own airplane and helicopter fleet from its headquarters at Baracoa Military Air Base some 10 miles from Havana. Although it is incorporated as a private company, it is staffed completely by military personnel; even the presidential fleet is housed in its facilities. Aerogaviota has Russian MI-8 helicopters, AAAN-26 airplanes, and a Soviet-made JAK-40 triple reactor. According to Otto, “Aerogaviota provides all transportation for the tourism industry as well as private airplane rental services to foreign businessmen.”

Real estate interests are under the aegis of Almest SA. (“Al” after Juan Almeida Bosque, and “mest” after the late Francia Mestre, two of the revolution’s founding figures). Almest SA builds hotel facilities for the exclusive use of foreigners. It is described by Otto as “a budding company that is taking its first steps toward controlling properties and land for future construction projects.” Almacenes Universal SA is another entity. It controls domestic and foreign trade and operates several free-enterprise zones in Wajay, Mariel, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Also linked to the import-export business is Antex SA, another important GAESA company. Antex serves as conduit for introducing spies trained by Military Counterintelligence (CIM) into other countries. It has offices in over ten countries, including Panama, Angola, South Africa and Namibia. Antex has no operations in Spain. According to Otto, “Cuba hires foreign manpower in Third World countries through Antex, and is instrumental in setting up various types of off-shore and holding companies. It lends itself to infiltrating espionage and intelligence personnel as well.”

Otto adds: “ This particular company moves lots of money because it buys and sells timber, ships, and the like. It is one of Raul Castro’s most important endeavors. Its staff is made up of highly qualified and trained military personnel. The Military Intelligence Department (DIM) is under the direction of Division General Jesus Bermudez Cutiño.”