HAVANA, Cuba. – Every time we set out to research information from the last thirty years about a given litigation or an important case involving the Cuban regime and international law, the name Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández will come up in a second. If not his, then the name of some relative.
A Juris Doctor; a full professor of international private law at the University of Havana; a National Law Award recipient in 2012; and president of the Cuban Arbitration Court (CCACI, by its Spanish acronym) since its founding in 2007, 78-year-old Rodolfo Dávalos Fernández served as arbiter for the Civil and Commercial Court (CIMA, by its Spanish acronym) in Madrid, and for the International Arbitration Court in Paris. He has been much more than just an expert to Fidel Castro and to Raúl, but a right-hand man and counsel who is at the very core of the complex economic web of the Castros, a web he knows to perfection, like no other attorney.
As legal counsel of Cubanacán, S.A. –which was headed by Abraham Maciques, another of Fidel Castro’s right-hand men- Rodolfo Dávalos became, in a short time, the personal attorney to Enrique Martinón; in the early 1990s, he became Assistant Director of the Meliá hotel chain in Cuba. He was also the chief counsel for the Spanish company’s negotiations with China, which shows the trust that Meliá’s president Gabriel Escarrer placed on his business acumen.
Located in Madrid is one of the most important law offices in Europe: Uría Menéndez, specialists in commercial law. Their office is the obligatory firm where any foreign businessman must go if he/she wishes to invest in Cuba. Among Uría Menéndez’s clients we find the Meliá hotel chain, and many other foreign companies who have bet on the opportunities at the Mariel Special Development Zone, as well as the British owners of Esencia Hotel and Resort, who shall build The Carbonera Club, the first exclusive resort in Cuba that will boast of a world class golf course.
It is at Uría Menéndez that Lourdes Dávalos León has her office; she is classified by the firm as “Star Associate”.
How was young Lourdes able to be admitted to such an important law firm in 2007, fresh out of law school and with no experience in practicing the profession? The answer is as mysterious as is the true story of how she managed –or someone managed for her- to validate her degree in Europe, when José Luis Toledo Santander, the now President of the Constitutional and Judicial Affairs Commission of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power refused to do so, most likely because he knew nothing about “special plans” that were above and beyond his understanding as mere Dean of the Law School.
“That is a real mystery,” remembers a witness to those events, a professor of the University of Havana Law School: “she was Dr. Dávalos’ daughter, and no one expected that Toledo would behave so intransigently (…), I know there was a confrontation that forced Rodolfo to use all his influence, which is greater and more powerful than Toledo’s, even with his parliamentary position, it doesn’t measure up to Rodolfo’s (…). He even managed to get her exempted from the required social service, which shows even the most naïve individual that higher interests were at stake (…), evidently, they were desperate for her to graduate so they could send her to Madrid as urgently as possible, because it had to do with companies, contracts, bank accounts, all of which are a mystery to everyone and Rodolfo is the custodian of all this which requires discretion, loyalty and trust, and that explains why the structure is the family’s purview, a gargantuan scheme where secrets are passed down from parents to offspring (…). That explains why the arbitration court and the law firm in Madrid (…) are in the hands of the same family (…), (Lourdes) was a very good student, I won’t deny that, but what’s key is that she was Dr. Dávalos’ daughter, and daddy paved the way,” the professor stated.
The truth be what it may, the reality is that having graduated law school in 2007 –which coincided with the founding of the Cuban Arbitration Court under her father’s leadership- That same year, Lourdes Dávalos moved to Spain to matriculate immediately for a Masters in International Business Law at Universidad Complutense in Madrid. This allowed her to register in a short span (2009) with the Madrid Bar Association (her registration number 100622) and to become a member of the Spanish Arbitration Club, in order to start working at the Madrid law firm Eversheds Lupicinio (her professional track can be found on her Linkedin profile). Eversheds Lupicinio had been in charge of business deals with the Cuban state until Uría Menéndez took over the account. In 2011, only four years after graduation, the firm acquired Lourdes Dávalos as “Principal Associate” responsible for its Cuba Archive and as main expert of legal issues with regard to the Mariel Special Development Zone and other investments. Young Lourdes has published several articles about the Mariel Zone and other investments for trade magazines in which she emphasizes the advantages to investing in Cuba and how to go about it.
(Part II of an investigative report conducted by journalist Ulisses Fernández. To read the entire report, please press here)
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