Havana florist and doll shops are among businesses prohibited for American shoppers | Miami Herald

77
Havana florist and doll shops are among businesses prohibited for American shoppers | Miami Herald

Inside a small old Havana shop are dolls inspired by Norse fairy tales, Native American dolls with their own teepee, elf dolls, an updated version of the Santeria deity Ochún in a gold dress, and baby dolls in career outfits. The elaborate muñecos seem innocent enough, but this shop is among 180 Cuban businesses that the United States says are tied to the Cuban military and therefore off limits to American visitors. It was placed on the U.S. Department of State’s prohibited list in November in a move designed to keep financial resources out of the hands of enterprises owned or controlled by the Cuban military. Also on the prohibited list are a Mercaderes Street florist shop where buckets of yellow, lavender, pink, coral and red roses and small floral arrangements await customers and several other picturesque Old Havana stores that were launched by the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana to increase Old Havana’s charm factor. Except, Cuban officials say, it’s a mistake. The Muñecos de Leyenda (Legendary Dolls) store, the florist shop, and the other gift and souvenir stores aren’t controlled by the military or the military’s sprawling conglomerate GAESA ( Grupo de Administración Empresarial ). Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW A boy passes Muñecos de Leyenda, a doll store in Old Havana that is on the restricted list. Mimi Whitefield mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com The State Department’s list includes all the stores, restaurants and hotels that used to fall under the umbrella of Habaguanex, a corporation that belonged to the Office of the Historian and generated revenue to finance historic preservation in Old Havana and social projects in the neighborhood. In 2016, Habaguanex was absorbed by GAESA and the hotels and restaurants became part of the Gaviota Tourism Group, which belongs to the military. Habaguanex, GAESA and Gaviota are all on the restricted list. Orlando Ramos Blanco, the president of the San Cristobal Tourism Agency, said the stores shouldn’t be on the list. They remained with the Office of the Historian, which is directed by historian and preservationist Eusebio Leal, he said. San Cristobal is the Historian Office’s tourism agency that emphasizes sustainable historical, cultural and heritage tourism in Havana and nine other Cuban cities. “We were on the list in the old configuration but now the Habaguanex brand no longer exists. It’s now part of Gaviota and the little stores belong to the Office of the Historian. We have kept them,’’ Ramos said. “This is a lack of knowledge.” What’s more, San Cristobal was never on the list. “I will say that with capital letters,” said Ramos. “We have communicated this to our clients.” In response to a query from the Miami Herald, a State Department spokesperson said: “The Department intends to update the Cuba Restricted List periodically and will consider relevant information, as applicable, on a case-by-case basis.” No changes have been made in the restricted list since […]