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Havana 1950s: Mafia, Nightclubs, Casinos and Corruption
Havana Casino in 1950s
by Cuban Information Archives
Havana 1950
Though vice in Cuba walks hand in hand with politics, the Caribbean republic has little trouble with such gangs and syndicates as curse Chicago, Miami and other big American cities. Havana`s rackets are keyed to the Latins` individualistic temperament. There is no lord of Cuban underworld, no Al Capone or Dutch Schultz, and there probably never will be.
An attempt to create a super-syndicate of crime was smashed with amazing vigor three years ago by the usually easy-going Cuban government.

Indalecio Pertierra, one of a family with large interests in Havana gaming and night clubs, moved to organize the rackets. As efficiency expert, he chose the best man he could find Charles `Lucky` Luciano. The one-time vice lord of New York had just been sprung out of a New York Penitentiary and deported to his native Italy.
Luciano jumped at the chance for a piece of the $50,000,000 left in Cuba every year by fun-seeking Americans. He quietly rushed to Havana. But just two weeks after President Prio heard Luciano was in town, the erstwhile white-slaver was riding a fast boat back to Rome. His host, Pertierra, was already mulling over a stern lecture on how `sportsmen` conduct themselves in Cuba.
in Cuba. Nobody believed him. A local columnist remarked that Luciano`s only sin was his well-known weakness for running the whole show. Everybody believed that.

There are a few big names in the Gambling field, but they merely run the handsomest pleasure domes. Montmartre, Tropicana and the dream-like outdoor casino Sans Souci are all separately-owned and cheerfully compete among themselves and with a dozen other rivals.
Most spectacular among the gambling world`s collection of adventurers, businessmen and multi-lingual croupiers is a lissome, silver blonde woman lately removed from the wide open spaces of our West. Part owner and chief of the gambling rooms at two of Havana`s smartest clubs, she claims to be the only woman gambling impresario in the world.

Cuba still rides the wartime boom that tripled the price of sugar and pours into the pockets of four million Cubans nearly a half-billion dollars every year. Prosperous Habaneros whirl through their cluttered streets in shiny Cadillacs. Every street vendor nurses his dreams of a quick million. The vice lords never had it so good.
But tiny clouds perch on the horizon where sky and blue Caribbean meet almost imperceptibly. An American depression would collapse Cuban prosperity overnight, turning back the clock to the grim days of 1942 when the city lay almost paralyzed. The Axis submarine blockade almost isolated Havana from the world then. Thousands of streetwalkers, gamblers and cocaine hawkers bitterly turned to honest labor to keep alive.
There are signs, too, that America`s 1950 - model racketeers with their bookkeepers` minds and triggerman`s ruthlessness are moving across the strait from Florida.
by Cuban Information Archives Website
Article ID 219
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