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Commander Guillermo García Frías's purebred racehorses

Two companies, some 40 farms across the country, 17,000 horses, millions of dollars in winnings – all with no accountability to any State body.

La Habana

I was recently looking for information about the mistreatment of animals, when I found, in El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua), an excellent story by the journalist Francisco Menéndez about the breeding of thoroughbred horses.

According to the report, this is a thriving business overseen by the Commander of the Revolution Guillermo García Frías through "his companies ALCONA S.A. and Flora y Fauna." These companies are present throughout the country, with about 40 farms (none of them owned by García Frías in 1959 or earlier) dedicated to breeding racehorses. This is, of course, rearing for external commercial purposes, as in socialist Cuba horse racing has been banned since 1967.

The former Grand Oriental Park Racetrack in Marianaohas been buried under a thick layer of asphalt, converted in a vast truck parking lot.

The equine emporium of the former farmer from the Sierra Maestra boasts 17,000 horses of 17 breeds, the most important being Dutch jumping horses and English racehorses.

The business began to be promoted in 2005, when they bought 23 horses in Holland, including two mares that were already pregnant. This acquisition included counsel by Dutch experts. These were horses descending from champions.

When the Dutch found that the weather conditions were favorable, they began to export very young foals, just a year old. The training of thoroughbreds begins when they are three years old. The last acquisition that we know of was in 2013: a group of 53 animals, at a cost of around two million dollars, which produced revenues of four million. As you see, a far cry from the result of self employment in Cuba.

A farm of 27 stables, 12 of them dedicated to horses, with a workforce of over 100, is the flagship of the old commander's empire: Rancho Azucarero, in Artemisa. Dedicated to this activity since 1944, then linked to the Oriental Park, and today specialized in Dutch jumping foals, this estate includes a riding school for children and an international cemetery for pure-bred animals, providing proper burials for these noble horses.  

Since 2010 the Remate Élite horse auction has been held at the Lenin Park Equestrian Center during the first half of February. Customers from Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Angola and Spain stay at the Villa Charco Azul on the grounds of the Rancho Azucarero.

This annual auction of about 30 horses is the highlight of the event. Although much more modest than European functions of its kind, at which horses are sold for tens of millions, this auction gives the organizers a clean take of half a million euros. At the one held in 2014,  the Edelman and Fumuto horses fetched prices of around 40,000 euros each.  As usual in Cuba, these major capitalist businesses, handled by longstanding, trusted figures, are exempt from the public domain, accountable to no state body, as this impunity appears to be an inseparable part of what the official propaganda calls the “conquests of the Revolution.”

Thus, we ought to thank Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario for disclosing these details.

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