HAVANA TIMES – In Cuba, renting a car, sleeping in a hotel, diving or buying in a store has one thing in common: the companies that provide these services belong to the Grupo Empresarial Empresarial S.A. (GAESA) led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces, reported dpa news.
GAESA is the largest Cuban holding company and includes a conglomerate of more than 50 companies, all directed under the laws of the market and chaired by brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, ex-son in law of President Raul Castro.
The most well-known company under GAESA is the Gaviota hotel chain, which has more than 29,000 rooms throughout the country, many of them in shared management with foreign companies such as Melia, Iberostar and even Starwood of the US Marriott chain.
The crown jewel of GAESA is the tourism sector, with a market share of 40 percent, but this conglomerate is much broader than many people think, reaching almost all sectors of the economy, as long as they bring benefits.
GAESA owns a shipping company, has its own airline, construction companies, car sales, real estate companies, banks and the company Almacenes Universales SA, which controls the container traffic at the Port of Mariel with its Special Development Zone, the big hope of the Cuban Government to attract foreign investments to the island thanks to the tax benefits.
At the outset, the Ministry of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces had their own separate companies separated from each other to self-finance their daily activities. By giving each institution a part of the economic pie ensured a peace between them.
The balance existed until 2010, when CIMEX, the island’s largest commercial conglomerate founded by the Ministry of the Interior, was absorbed by the military (GAESA), increasing their chain stores, but above all in financial services and import-export capacity.
The GAESA Empire increased last year with the acquisition of Habaguanex, the company that manages the tourist businesses in the historic center of Old Havana, formerly in the hands of the powerful Havana City historian Eusebio Leal.
The other takeover was that of Banco Financiero Internacional (BFI), the country’s main entity for currency management.
Both acquisitions made GAESA continue to capture highly profitable economic sectors because of its relationship with the foreign market.
The sending of remittances to Cuba is monopolized by its Financiera Cimex (Fincimex), which has agreements with companies such as Western Union. Fincimex also controls the processing of Visa and Mastercard international cards on the island.
These international financial alliances are also linked to the tourism sector, because it is via Fincimex that companies that send remittances pay in Cuba to the owners of houses and apartments that use the services of the US company Airbnb, specialized in renting rooms.