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The Cuban economy is in tatters, but Raúl Castro continues to enjoy 'his "key'

'They have come in with everything, even boats, to revamp the coast, weapons, guards, trucks full of goods," says a local resident. "When that happens, everyone knows Raúl is coming.'

Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel at the 8th Congress of the PCC, in April 2021.
Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel at the 8th Congress of the PCC, in April 2021. AP

For a week preparations have been made for Raúl Castro's end-of-year stay on which many consider his "private island," Cayo Saetía, on the north-eastern coast of Holguín, reported DIARIO DE CUBA sources, who also criticized the mobilization of resources despite the country's critical economic situation.

"Although it's classified information, it's impossible for the logistical and security movement not to be detected. The news immediately spreads through the offices of the Government and the Party," said a worker with the Provincial Government of Holguín, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 90-year-old general "loves Saetía to rest. He has a house linked to the tourism complex there, but it's only for him. Those who have seen it say that a couple of years ago they renovated it and that it's a real beauty surrounded by a natural paradise, with well-selected, trusted personnel," he added.

Other local sources confirmed this information. Ricardo, a resident of Cajimaya, a town in the vicinity of the island of Saetía, which is connected to the mainland by a short bridge, told DIARIO DE CUBA that "trucks and soldiers are moving, taking things to the key, and when that happens everyone knows that Raúl is coming. He does so at least twice a year, and spends a week or two here."

"They have come in with everything. There are even boats to revamp the coast, weapons, guards, trucks full of goods. And Police can now be seen stationed at all the road junctions. Nearby hunters have their shotguns taken a couple of weeks before, and fishermen are not allowed to fish either the Nipe or Levisa bays. Everything comes to a hault while Raúl enjoys his vacation," added Ricardo. "He who can, does," he quipped sardonically.

"Once they brought a yacht overland, and people were amazed at how big it was, mounted on a huge trailer. They say they brought it from Cienfuegos," explained Ignacio, another local.

"I have a friend who works in the key, and he says that when Raúl comes they freeze all the tourism and everything else, and only leave his trusted staff, selected to serve him. Tourists usually come to the key from Guardalavaca by helicopter and boats, and they also let Cubans on to spend time at the beach gazebos. But all this is put on hold, and the island is only for him."

Saetía is a 120 km2 of land formerly owned by the United Fruit Company. It was turned into "The Island of Children" (La isla de los niños), the site of a camp that is almost in disuse today, and for decades it has been managed as a tourism destination by the Gaviota Group as a hunting ground with a three-star villa/resort.

In addition to Raúl Castro's residence, the Flora y Fauna company has a small station in Cayo Saetía and is responsible for introducing the animals that the general and his guests hunt. One can find camels, ostriches, fallow and red deer, as well as numerous species of birds in their natural habitat. The companies that operate there have one thing in common: they're all under military control.

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