Independent Cuban news outlets revealed this week images of Sandro Castro — a social media influencer, nightclub owner, and grandson of late dictator Fidel Castro — at a crowded dance party in Matanzas province, seemingly violating Chinese coronavirus protocols.
Video of the alleged illegal activity, if confirmed to have taken place after the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began, may be particularly egregious given accusations by acclaimed international organizations such as Human Rights Watch that the Cuban Communist Party is using the Chinese coronavirus pandemic to persecute dissidents, in many cases levying fines and sending them to jail for infractions such as improperly wearing a mask. In some cases, Human Rights Watch denounced police harassing dissidents under vague grounds of violating coronavirus restrictions, but never clarifying precisely which restrictions the individuals in question were violating.
Sandro Castro is believed to be the owner of Efe nightclub in Havana — named for the Spanish pronunciation of the letter F, his grandfather’s first initial and the street where it is located — and has become a regular feature in Communist Party-approved music videos, social events, and social media posts. His Instagram feed, which has gone notably silent during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, regularly featured photos of the younger Castro living a luxurious life in a nation where the vast majority live in abject poverty thanks to over half a century of Castro family rule.
Mixed reports indicated in November that Efe was fined and temporarily lost its business license as a result of violating Chinese coronavirus restrictions on crowded locations. If true, this did not seem to discourage the Castro grandchild, who was caught on video at a concert, maskless, dancing salsa. No evidence currently exists that the club has gone out of business or that it will not return following the end of the pandemic.
Footage of Sandro Castro at the party surfaced on the Youtube program Hola Otaola, hosted by the eponymous Miami-based entertainment figure Alexander Otaola, on Sunday.
The party allegedly occurred in Cárdenas, a city about 75 miles east of Havana near the famed Varadero beach. According to Otaola, no one at the event appeared to be enforcing restrictions like the use of sanitary masks, social distancing, or keeping crowds at a minimum. The event did seem to take place outside, which scientists believe allows for more ventilation and thus makes it more difficult to spread the virus.
“Fines against Cubans for not wearing a mask or for wearing them incorrectly, have reached as high as 5,000 pesos [about the monthly salary of a medical resident]. Some have been tried and condemned to several months in prison,” the independent outlet Cubanet noted in its report on Sandro Castro’s dance party.
No evidence exists that Sandro Castro will face any legal consequences for attending the concert. Details of the event remain scarce at press time, but Cuba has not publicly condemned any large entertainment event.
In contrast, the Cuban government sent officials to repress dissidents belonging to the San Isidro Movement — an anti-communist artist collective — in November for going on hunger strike in the private home of the leader of the group, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. Officials dressed in laboratory coats broke into Otero’s Havana home in November, while he was on a hunger and thirst strike, and claimed that the gathering was in violation of coronavirus protocol because one of the individuals present had recently traveled to the United States.
“Cuban authorities are using Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] rules to expand their repressive tool kit against critics,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, warned in December. “This is part of a broader pattern in which Cuban authorities use any excuse to systematically repress dissent.”
Sandro Castro has repeatedly faced criticism for posting videos that appear to mock the pandemic, which has killed 147 people in the country, according to official government statistics. In August, Estefania Font, who appears to identify as a model on social media, posted a story on Instagram alongside Sandro Castro rapping in honor of soberana, a Cuban vaccine candidate that the communist regime claims to be in development. Facing criticism, Font later claimed she was “ignorant” of all politics.
In March, the young Castro posted a selfie on his Instagram stories screen reading “ready pa el [for the] Corona” in a mask that also prompted outrage over its glib tone and the apparent attempt to achieve a model pose.
Castro has rarely posted on his Instagram since the pandemic arrived in the Western Hemisphere, apparently preferring the ephemeral “stories” feature over the more permanent posting. He did, however, make a cameo appearance in a reggaeton music video in November for artist Alex Díaz, which he advertised on the social media platform.
Sandro Castro is the son of Alexis Castro Soto Del Valle, one of Fidel Castro’s nine known children. Castro Soto del Valle is an engineer and is not believed to play a political role in the Castro empire.
At the time of his death, which the Cuban regime announced in 2016, Fidel Castro was estimated to be worth at least $900 million.