By Alexis Cepero (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — As part of a clampdown on violations of “city planning legislation”, Raul Castro’s government is applying severe control measures on privately-run business around the capital, many of which have been shut down by authorities in recent months.
The National Institute for Urban Planning (IPF) has become the firm hand of the Cuban government in its fight against alleged city planning infractions, the mechanism through which it has decreed the closure of hundreds of small private businesses in Havana.
The IPF is applying these harsh measures in the context of an official campaign against infractions and misdemeanors, many of them identified as violations of the city’s urban planning and development code. On April of last year, Raul Castro appointed Division General Samuel Rodiles Planas director of the IPF and tasked him with bringing order and discipline to this sector.
According to statements made by business owners affected by these recent measures, all private businesses that operate locales on doorways, or places which are considered part of the city’s decorative environment, will be shut down and forced to relocate to household or building interiors.
New Requirements and Control Measures
As part of this series of measures, business owners will now be barred from renting out these types of spaces.
In addition to this and on the basis of Decree Law 272 of 2001 and 299, passed on May 14, all locales built specifically to operate small private businesses will be inspected to verify compliance with a whole range of very strict requirements.
The IPF has now been empowered to carry out inspections and apply State control measures. The Attorney General’s Office, city courts, local government Inspection Bureaus, the National Housing Bureau and other bodies will also take part in these inspection efforts.
“I knew a good thing couldn’t last long in Cuba. They simply had to interfere, at one point,” said Madyory Menendez, the owner of a cafeteria which was shut down because it had been set up next to a doorway facing Havana’s busy avenue of Calzada de Diez de Octubre.
According to several individuals interviewed by CaféFuerte, IPF officials reported that their offices are providing the public with information about State-owned locales which the government is renting out to business owners whose locales have been closed down.
“They weren’t exactly kind, they arrived and told me, straight out, that I had to take everything down, showing me the Law, in writing,” a business owner said.
Decree Law 272, which sets down sanctions for violations of the urban planning and development code, was published in Cuba’s Official Gazette on February 21, 2001. It establishes that, in addition to a fine, the individual or entity can be subjected to other measures, such as being forced to discontinue the illegal practice and to compensate the city for damages caused.
It also empowers inspectors of the Urban Planning and Housing bureaus to apply fines and other punitive measures. Similarly, Article 29 stipulates that, if a person fails to comply with a measure of this nature, a competent State entity shall enforce the penalty and the violator will be made to pay all related costs.
The enforcement of city planning legislation through the closing-down of private businesses around the city is taking place a little over two years after the Cuban government authorized the opening of these businesses as an economic alternative for Cubans.
Some 400 thousand Cubans have been registered as self-employed since the government authorized the granting of licenses for 181 different types of private business activity, a fifth of which fall under the category of food preparation and food product sales.