Cuban dissidents expressed outrage this weekend after American media outlets exposed the lavish lifestyle of Tony Castro, Fidel Castro’s grandson, as documented on his now-private Instagram account.
The younger Castro has published months of photos showing him traveling the world, sunbathing on a luxury yacht, eating at fine dining establishments, and attending social events with a date carrying a purse estimated to be worth thousands of dollars. Castro’s only known occupation is as a “model,” though he has not appeared on any major runway in recent memory.
At the time of his death in 2016, estimates of Fidel Castro’s secretive net worth placed the number at $900 million, a sum Castro himself repeatedly denied despite evidence of overseas wealth accumulation, including ownership of a private island and dolphinarium.
Brother Raúl Castro remains Cuba’s dictator, though he has relegated much of the public obligation of this job to Miguel Díaz-Canel, his subordinate “president.” Díaz-Canel’s first year in office has ushered in a major food crisis on the island. Cubans are currently enduring a nationwide bread shortage triggered by the government’s failure to import the necessary quantities of grain to supply flour this year. Officials claimed that a breakdown of several flour mills throughout the country exacerbated the problem and allege they do not have the means to buy the replacement parts for the mills.
This bread shortage did not stop Díaz-Canel’s wife, Lis Cuesta, from organizing a fine dining conference through the nation’s tourism agency for top Communist Party leaders.
Miami’s El Nuevo Herald triggered the outrage surrounding the life of Tony Castro by publishing several photos from his Instagram account showing him traveling around the world. Castro appears on his account enjoying Mexico’s best beaches as well as stints in Panama and Spain. Castro appears in Barcelona in one photo, enjoying a visit to the city’s Basilica of the Sacred Family. (Christianity in Cuba is heavily regulated and allowed only to be practiced in the hands of Communist Party-friendly Catholic priests.) In another photo, Castro appears driving a modern BMW, a stark departure from the dilapidated mid-20th century vehicles the average Cuban must endure driving, thanks to the Revolution’s communist economy:
— Julio López (@juliolpzme) January 4, 2019
— Sevcec A Fondo (@sevcecafondo) January 3, 2019
Speaking to the Cuban American Martí Noticias media outlet, Cuban dissidents expressed disgusted resignation at the photos.
“This isn’t new, this has always happened, now they are just not afraid to show what they have with their power,” José Ramón Polo, an activist with the Roundtable of Dialogue of the Cuban Youth dissident group, told Martí. “Socialism is the equal redistribution of poverty. We are all poor except for them.”
Many question how the Castros manage to live such luxury lifestyles when the nation remains impoverished and, unlike most of the Revolution’s history, it can no longer rely on charity from the Soviet Union.
“With the situation the country is living now where there isn’t even flour to bake bread, the most basic food the Cuban population has, suddenly we see pictures of Fidel and Raúl’s grandchildren … it’s logical to think, rightfully, that this money is coming from what the people aren’t receiving,” another Cuban activist, Kirenia Yalit Núñez, told Martí.
El Nuevo Herald notes Cuba’s average monthly salary is still about $30. Most Cubans require special permissions to leave the country, and anyone with any record of either publicly expressing disapproval of the government or associating with known dissidents typically fails to receive those permissions.
Cuba still uses a ration card system to distribute food, which has become increasingly difficult due to the flour shortage. The regime entitles Cubans to two types of bread: a “baguette” style loaf that is more expensive and difficult to acquire and tiny rolls that the average Cuban says are stale and difficult to chew. Bakeries began lacking both types of bread in mid-December, just as the country prepared to observe the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Díaz-Canel’s agricultural agencies insisted that the broken mills were to blame, even as international outlets noted that wheat imports did not add up to expected demand for bread in the country.
In his New Year speech, which doubles as an address on the anniversary of the Revolution, Díaz-Canel urged not just average Cubans, but the members of his Cabinet to practice “austerity” and limit their spending. That demand apparently does not extend to his wife, Cuesta, who organized a fine dining event scheduled for this week at Havana’s Iberostar Hotel. The event “will feature Cuban chefs and others from nations such as India, Peru, and Spain, [and] will emphasize the value and role of cooking within Cuban culture,” according to Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.
Diario de Cuba, which highlighted the Granma notice, adds that the agency in charge of the event, the Cultural Tourism Agency, is in charge of organizing tourism events intended to expand the reach of the Communist regime through social and cultural exchanges.