Saturday, December 4

Escarrer was Aznar’s secret ambassador to Fidel Castro

The expectations of anyone seeking revelations of high political rank in the autobiography of Gabriel Escarrer Juliá they will be disappointed. You will need a book titled Your Life instead of My life, to draw a juicier map of one of the greatest business ventures. However, the only incident that escapes the sieve has a historical value. The founder of the Meliá group was the Aznar’s secret ambassador to Fidel Castro, above any official degree or designation. The hotelier carried out this high-voltage intermediation work during the year and a half in which diplomatic relations between Spain and Cuba were interrupted, in addition to intervening at the request of Juan Carlos I and his prime minister. The period covered by the Mallorcan extends between October 1996 and April 1998.

The chapter devoted to Cuba in Escarrer’s memoirs opens with an apostolic “The sightseeing, the peace industry “, topped off by a quote from Pío XII. The landing of the Mallorcan in “the pearl of the Caribbean”, another topic paid in the book, took place at the end of the eighties with Felipe Gonzalez settled in La Moncloa. The Cuban dictator’s first trip to Europe since the revolution was motivated by a meeting with the president of the socialist government. However, the Spanish-Cuban honeymoon that favored the establishment of Sol Meliá would be cut short with the arrival of Aznar to power.

The first legislature of the PP in La Moncloa coincided with the enactment by the Clinton Administration and also in 1996 of the Helms-Burton law, so demanding with the blockade of Cuba that it even prevented the Escarrer family from entering the United States. In keeping with the North American passion that was going to give him so many headaches after the turn of the century, Aznar enthusiastically joined the leadership of European anti-Castroism. Havana denied placet as Spanish ambassador to Catalan Josep Coderch, with a ucedista political trajectory. The inevitable diplomatic rupture gave an unpublished role and now revealed to Gabriel Escarrer, whom Castro called in private “Escarré” dry.

Castro consulted with Sol Meliá for the authorization of any investment from Spain


Except for the prologue and the epilogue of My Life, the autobiography is narrated in the third person, insofar as the authorship of Isabel Durán is recorded. With this majestic he, the book details that “Gabriel Escarrer was the valid interlocutor to build bridges between the commander and the Government of Jose Maria Aznar. The hotelier then raises the caliber of his assignment. “In common agreement with the King and the chief executive, the businessman had to act as a link between the two countries.” The cartoon would draw a businessman with his body stretched out to the town hall, while trying to prevent the distancing between the metropolis and the old colony from bearing fruit, to “try to find solutions to the many problems that were on the table.”

Escarrer with Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and with President Díaz Canel. ‘My life’

The revelation of the central role played by Escarrer in Spanish politics, and that it would place him at the diplomatic level of his then Foreign Minister and colleague Abel matutes, forces you to get away from the third person to speak in your own book. “It was agreed between His Majesty and Aznar that a channel would be maintained through me to convey to him the problems existing between the two countries and to seek solutions to new problems that might arise.” In order to cement the protocol of his work, the hotelier reveals that every month and a half he went to La Moncloa to inform the President of the Government about the temperature of relationships that were theoretically non-existent.

Fidel Castro was the best seller Escarrer encountered in his long career, but the Mallorcan ended up imposing his commercial skills, the humble category in which he proudly inscribes his tourist successes. The mutual fascination paved the only episode of the political backroom, throughout the creation of an empire, that the Mallorcan allows us to glimpse in his autobiography. “In the first person, the experience acquired in that period was extremely interesting and valuable, in which many questions regarding the relationship between the two countries were resolved. and I sincerely believe that my role was positive, since it allowed me to serve my country “. The adventure would have an ironic finish, because the new ambassador now official of Madrid to Havana would be another Mallorcan, Eduardo Junco Bonet.

A fictional note would lead to the conclusion that Escarrer oscillated in Cuba on the border between diplomacy and espionage. The hotelier returns to silence when it comes to specifying which are the specific missions that he resolved in fulfillment of the King and Aznar’s mandate. More than one Spaniard would be surprised that Castro consulted with Sol Meliá for the authorization of any investment from Spain, with the hotel company at the disposal of executive functions. Maybe the Mallorcan falls short when describing the complicity sealed thanks to his fraternal relationship with Castro, that urged him to respect the dictatorship faithful to the Caribbean Marxism of the “commander” on his island of adoption, while rejecting any leftist fickleness, however sweetened it was on his native island. Of course, this contradictory behavior is not exclusive to the founder of Meliá. Distinguished families like the Marches endorsed González in Madrid while betting on the most rigorous PP in Palma.

Escarrer’s expansion in Cuba is named after another Mallorcan, its head of human resources since 1983 Gabriel Canaves, to whom the founder recognizes the role of “spearhead of the company” in the largest of the Antilles. The result is reflected in the opening of 35 hotels, becoming the second country in the expansion of the chain and minting a third of the Cuban plant. With the particularity that Havana participates under conditions of equality through Cubanacan. Still today, Escarrer faces claims from the pre-revolutionary owners of the parcels where his resorts are located. Again it had to be a socialist government, headed this time by Pedro Sanchez, which would commit itself to the Mallorcan businessmen installed in the pearl of the Caribbean, against the anti-Castro pretensions. However, the top echelons of the Ministry of Tourism summed up their astonishment at the brawl in an astonished “But didn’t you have lawyers?” They were not necessary.

The best response to the shadow diplomatic role played by the Mallorcan hotelier is the photo in Mi Vida in which Castro and Escarrer embrace fraternally, above any imaginable reluctance between a Marxist revolutionary and an ultra-conservative businessman. It is clear that he is the most spectacular personality with whom the creator of tourist geographies was related, in some way he pays homage to him in the book. It would be an exaggeration to say that the businessman played a role in the Castro succession, but his excellent relations with the nomenklatura have been transferred to the current president Miguel Díaz-Canel, with whom he has shared friendly scenes at the opening of hotels. Both in the passages dedicated to Cuba and in the rest of the book, the memorialist has preferred to focus on the positive side of his business. Hence, the collaboration of Banco de Santander in financing its initiatives stands out, but omits the fierce disagreement with the entity of Emilio Botín that at the time it externalized with out-of-the-box boxes. To the entrepreneur He is moved by the maxim that you cannot lose a battle that you do not acknowledge having fought, thereby automatically increasing your win rate.

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