The Mafia in Havana


The Mafia in Havana:
A Caribbean Mob Story

Enrique Cirules
2004, Ocean Press
177 pages

ONE personality looms large in this pioneering study of how the Mafia extended its unforgiving tentacles across Cuba prior to the Revolution of 1959: Meyer Lansky. The Jewish gangster and Mafia financier was more responsible than any other single figure for developing the relationship between US crime syndicates and the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista, who blew hot and cold towards the former according to the level of pressure he was placed under by Washington at any given time. Although Lansky had been associated with Mafia interests in Cuba from bases in New York, Miami or Las Vegas since 1940, he rarely visited the island. When his associate Lucky Luciano secretly moved to Havana to oversee increasingly lucrative tourism and gambling businesses, however, Lansky began to invest heavily in Cuban projects – investments that were subsequently wiped out by the Revolution, fatally weakening the asset base of a legendarily austere figure in the US underworld, although not undermining his reputation or influence in the shady circles in which he moved. Cirules has provided an intriguing portrait of Lansky’s affairs and his strange lifestyle within Cuba in the pre-revolutionary period as part of a more comprehensive overview of the US Mafia’s activities on the island. The links between Batista and the Mafia suggested by this book are challenged by subsequent research (see The Cuban Connection by Eduardo Sáenz Rover), but for its sheer capacity to evoke and explore the steamy atmosphere that prevailed in the criminal nirvana constructed by the Batista regime, it is worth reading. – EC

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