Peek Inside the Luxury Hotel Trump Won't Let You Stay At

Havana's stunning Gran Hotel Manzana is owned by the Cuban military, making it off-limits to Americans.


The Daily Mail called it "Cuba's first ULTRA luxury hotel"—a gorgeous five-star complex in Old Havana featuring more than 200 guest rooms, a high-end shopping arcade, three restaurants, multiple bars, a spa, a rooftop infiniti pool with spectacular panoramic views of the capitol, and the swankiest cigar lounge I'll bet you've ever seen.

It's Gran Hotel Manzana. The newly renovated century-old downtown structure is operated by the storied Swiss hotel chain the Kempinski Group. But if you're thinking it might be nice to spend a night there, I've got bad news for you: Because it's owned by Gaviota, the Cuban military's tourism arm, no Americans will be permitted to experience it for themselves, thanks to changes to the United States' Cuba policy announced by President Donald Trump just one week after the Manzana's grand opening in early June.

"We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime," the president said in his Miami speech. "They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism."

A recent FAQ sheet from the Treasury Department suggests Americans will still be able to visit Cuba, so long as the purpose of the trip is educational—and so long as their arrangements do not directly benefit the military. Staying at a pricy luxury resort owned by Gaviota will certainly be out of the question, as Cuba hawk Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) explained at the time of Trump's speech:

It's a shame. By all reports, the investments into Gran Hotel Manzana were made in response to President Barack Obama's 2014 opening up of relations with our island neighbor, in an effort to prepare the way for more Americans to comfortably visit the country. Now it seems the sparkling new establishment will be barred to U.S. travelers—not because the Communist government of Cuba has told us we're not welcome, but because our own government has told us we're not allowed.

While reporting in Havana this summer (check out my story "Whiplash and Backlash in the Republic of Cuba" in the brand new issue of Reason for more on that), I had the chance to tour this forbidden destination. The gallery below gives you just a taste of what I saw.

NEXT: Hillary: I Lost Because Bernie Promised Everyone a Pony

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  1. So, question: Should American citizens be allowed to directly support the Castro military through donations and other material aid? Like, say I want to ship a big crate of ammo and explosives along with a few million dollars. Should that be allowed?

    Honest question. In a country like Cuba, where everything is owned and operated by the oppressive all-encompassing state, where does one draw the line between supporting their military cracking down on the populace and ‘just doing business’?

    1. Should American citizens be allowed to directly support the Castro military through donations and other material aid? Like, say I want to ship a big crate of ammo and explosives along with a few million dollars. Should that be allowed?


      1. So you’re also in favor of allowing American citzens to directly and materially aid ISIS then? Just trying to get a feel for the level of your commitment to arming communists and insurgents.

        1. American citizens should only lend indirect support by letting their government decide which dictators and terrorist groups to support.

          1. I bet I would run into trouble attempting to ship pallets of cash to a hostile foreign government.

          2. So, you agree that American citizens should be allowed to donate to whichever violent and repressive regime’s they want to keep in power all over the globe then. Or no? Your answer appears to be ‘yes, we should be free to donate directly to ISIS in both guns, ammo, and cash’ correct?

            Keep in mind I’m fully aware that freedom has it’s trade-off’s that are non-ideal the question is if this is a good or desirable trade off in particular.

            Is my freedom to travel to Cuba and give their military direct support a good thing that’s ‘just the cost of doing business’ in regards to individual autonomy and freedom?

            1. Violence and repression are the essential functions of any government. Deciding which ones Americans are not allowed to support is an exercise in arbitrary horse-picking by politicians with their own agendas.

              1. Still deflecting, that’s odd. Do you, or do you not, believe in the freedom of individuals to choose which violent and oppressive regime’s to support with both financial and material aid? We’re not talking about the government doing it, I’m asking if every individual should be allowed to do it.

                I’m sure even you can understand the question.

                1. Of course they should. What possible justification or moral authority could the US government have to prevent them from doing so?

                  1. On the basis that it’s a violation of the non-aggression principle, theoretically, although Libertarianism in general isn’t exceptionally clear on that point. Or is giving money to groups that are quite definitely violent totes-kosher?

                    I’m not looking for a particular answer, but this is an interesting claim for Reason to make. It appears that even if harms are evident from certain monetary transactions, the person giving the money isn’t at all liable for it. This is a new claim for a Reason writer to make, and I’m curious on how far down that particular rabbit hole goes.

                    For me, it seems that this is a pretty logical ban even while it’s absolutely non-enforceable.

                    1. So is it not a violation of the NAP for the government to tell people they can’t visit relatives in certain places or lounge on certain beaches because they don’t like the government in the area?

                    2. Governments supporting repressive regimes is a violation of the NAP. Governments forcing you to fund their support of repressive regimes is a violation of the NAP – that’s two violations.

                      Individuals funding repressive regimes – that’s only one violation.

                      Seems a net improvement to me.

                    3. After all, while two wrongs don’t make a right, one wrong is still less wrong than two of them.

                    4. Fair point on that front I suppose.

                2. Here’s some non-deflection that even you should be able to grok:

                  Government has no business controlling my business, or regulating it, or allowing it, or even knowing about it.

                  Coercive violent government especially has no business using its violence to enforce its monopoly.

                  If you can’t figure out what that means, you’re pig-ignorant.

                  1. So if your business is contributing arms and dollars to repressive foreign governments, that should be allowed even while generally speaking Libertarians are the one’s who supposedly endorse the NAP. Of course, in this specific instance we have Libertarian’s saying ‘to hell with the NAP, give cash to Communist dictators!’.

                    Really trying to bring that Libertarian support down under 4% I see.

                  2. Government has no business controlling my business, or regulating it, or allowing it, or even knowing about it.

                    Ah, I see now. You’re an anarchist. Well that explains a lot.

                    1. It’s ok to support corrupt repressive murdering regimes as long as we do so collectively so as to dissipate the guilt.

            2. Yes. And I’d think we, as a mob of individuals, would do a better job of picking and choosing who to support than we’ve done as an enforced collective.

              Its not a matter of whether we allow people to support repressive regimes – that’s *mandatory* right now. At least this way we’d a) get to choose to support or not support and, b) choose which repressive regime we’re going to support if that’s our bag o’jellybeans.

              It ain’t perfect, it ain’t even great, but its not worse than what we’re doing now and has the potential to be a whole lot better.

          1. And this is no way has any bearing upon the NAP because…?

            1. It’s a “degrees of separation” thing. The general idea is that if you add enough steps between “cause” and “effect”, that the “cause” can’t reasonable be blamed for the “effect”.

              An example:

              Let’s say we have adjoining property with a water source that flows through both (mine first, then yours). If I build a new field and use that stream to irrigate it, drastically reducing (or even stopping all-together) water from reaching your property, I’m arguably in violation of the NAP.

              But if I divide my property and sell half to someone else? Then even if that “someone else” does the same (new field -> irrigation -> no water to you) I’m not responsible. Even if I knew they were going to do that.

              In short, I have no responsibility to consider the second-order consequences of my actions.

              1. So, the no degree’s of separation we have between the military owning this hotel and receiving the money that they collect is enough of a separation because…?

                Looking for a less facile explanation.

            2. It’s directly related to NAP. I’m saying we don’t kill people for spending their money how they wish.

              1. Your definition of aggression would appear to be incredibly limited since you support giving actual terrorist groups monetary aid when that aid directly translates into violence in more guns, more ammo, more training, and more bombs.

                The fact that you’re doing business with an arm of the Cuban military would seem to imply this money isn’t going to school construction, Jeeves.

    2. And, as a follow up question, do we expect the Cuban government to report U.S. citizens who stay at that particular hotel or is it just assumed that everyone who works there a CIA operative?

    3. Since everything you pay for over there is taxed you’re supporting the Cuban government directly. And since the military is funded through the government, you’re supporting it.

      Same as when someone comes here and spends money.

      The only difference here is that there’s a direct connection between your payment and the Cuban military – same thing is happening, just fewer people getting a cut of your money.

  2. American civilians can’t stay at hotels owned by the American military either.

    1. Serious response: Not all civilians can stay at hotels owned by the US military, but some can.
      Snarky response: You can, however, stay at a hotel owned by the US President, or pay rent to him.

      1. Well, you can stay in a hotel owned by tge man who currently holds the office of the President. The Presidency does not own the hotel.

        1. If I’d said “You can, however, stay at a hotel owned by the office of the US President, or pay rent to him.” then your distinction would have been relevant.

          But “the man who currently holds the office of the President” is synonymous with “the President”. Just like “the man who is currently your boss” is “your boss”.

  3. But if you’re thinking it might be nice to spend a night there, I’ve got bad news for you:

    It’s smack in the middle of a commie shithole.

    1. But have you seen the cool classic cars and architecture?

      1. I have, because they’re all left-over’s from circa 1950 here in the U.S. ^_-

    2. Not only that, the quality of the hookers and blow don’t even meet Atlantic City standards.


  4. *shakes fist at Trump*

    This will not stand!

    1. If you keep shaking poor Fist like that, he might end up with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

  5. I find the hotel rarely makes the stay.

  6. We are supposed to feel bad for the malinvestment in a military owned hotel run by Swiss cronies of a communist regime?

    Are we going a bit off the rails now?

  7. RE: Peek Inside the Luxury Hotel Trump Won’t Let You Stay at
    Havana’s stunning Gran Hotel Manzana is owned by the Cuban military, making it off-limits to Americans.

    Once again the ruling elites have the best while the masses live in hovels.
    Isn’t socialism wonderful?

  8. Cuba’s first ULTRA luxury hotel

    Bullshit. Cuba was lousy with ultra-luxury hotels before Castro and his minions fucked it all up.


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