Cuba went to Miami, now Miami is coming to Cuba
By Graham Sowa
HAVANA TIMES — Over the last few years President Obama and President Castro have ended many of the travel restrictions between their respective countries. Ease of travel plus an overly favorable United States immigration policy directed towards Cubans has opened an international pipeline of criminal activity. This problem has gone largely unnoticed, however Gilberto Martinez Suarez, also known by his Reggeaton stage name “Gilbertman” just gave it a name and a face.
Gilberto Suarez did something dozens of Cubans have done in the past few years. He went to the United States, dabbled in credit card fraud in various south Florida counties, was arrested, skipped bail, and ran back to Cuba with a treasure chest full of booty.
Once on the island he didn’t go to the upscale Havana enclaves of Miramar, Siboney and Playa. Instead he went to the poor, dilapidated, Guanabacoa neighborhood of Cuba’s capital. He bought up a city block of shacks, built a concrete mansion with 5 car garage, and basically set up a lord of the flies situation.
At just 28 years old Gilberto had enough cash and bling to create a dedicated following of clingers-on, hoodlums, and racketeers.
In Cuba he turned his stolen money into a music career. Guns, drugs, and briefcases of cash were prominently featured in glorified orgies of urban violence in his Reggeaton music videos such as “No Hay Break”.
His combination of flagrant disrespect of the law eventually caught too much attention of authorities in the Cuban government. Something had to be done. About two weeks ago his empire crumbled as a Cuban SWAT team raided his compound.
The story is now the most popular theme of gossip on Havana streets.
Gilberto Suarez would not be worth writing about anywhere else in the world, much less Miami. He would just be another small scale crook who didn’t know how to manage money and live under the radar. An erasable blotch on the fabric of society, an easy case for prosecutors.
But Cuba is not used to watching its parochial sons and daughters coming back and living this type of self-destructive sensationalism tinged lifestyle under the nose of the state.
While how he lived in Cuba might be unique how he stole his way to being rich is an old story.
The Sun Sentinel newspaper of Ft. Luaderdale Florida recently published an investigative report over a year in the making that highlights how Cubans are taking advantage of overly favorable immigration laws to go run scams in the United States. When looking at local Florida and national statistics on Medicare fraud, networks of marijuana growing houses, credit card fraud, identity theft, Cubans are overrepresented, more sophisticated, and more likely to escape justice.
U.S. law enforcement doesn’t pursue these criminals when they return to Cuba. A quick escape to their homeland after posting bail is currently the best “Get out of jail free” card in America.
I often wonder where all the money for these new restaurants, restored private houses, imported luxury goods and other elements of first world material culture come from in a country where the average worker is supposed to make between 20-35 USD a month. The answer is that at least a portion, maybe a large portion, is coming from ill-gotten gains from criminals ripping off the United States of America.
As long as we keep extending good will to Cuban immigrants through laws such as The Cuban Adjustment Act and refuse to normalize relations with the Cuban government in order to track down and extradite these fugitives of justice, the problem will keep getting worse.
Meanwhile Cuba will have to decide if it wants to get serious about cracking down on criminals who return from the United States before the situation gets out of hand such as in Gilbert Suarez’s case.
The fact that Mr. Suarez was able to build a mansion, keep guns, fighting dogs, drugs, acquire several luxury cars in a country where car ownership is the lowest in the hemisphere, and otherwise completely flaunt local law shows weakness in several institutions.
The Committee of the Defense of the Revolution, the People’s Power committee, and the local branch of the Communist Party should explain why Gilbert Suarez was given so much leeway before being arrested for crimes he was bragging about on Facebook.