Corrupción – Cuba – Corruption
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June 2012
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The New Man vs. The Honest Man / Yoani Sánchez

The New Man vs. The Honest Man / Yoani Sánchez

Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Villa Marista is the main operations center of the Cuban Ministry of the

Interior. Its huge structure was built to house a run by a

religious order, but since 1963 it has been home to the most feared jail

cells in the country. At the beginning of the Revolution there was talk

about "converting barracks into schools," but at this complex just the

opposite happened. The worst nightmare of many Cubans is to be put in

one of the cells at this Island Lubyanka, and end up under the bright

light in one of the interrogation rooms.

A few, very few, have been able to resist the psychological pressure

exerted by its officials, trained in the harsh methods of the KGB and

East German Stasi. The whole design of long corridors, cold metal bunks,

and cells where you can hardly tell if it's day or night, is intended to

break even the bravest and make them talk. One might think there is only

room behind its bars for those opposed to or disaffected with the

system, but every day it is home to more people being investigated for

corruption or diversion of resources.

When several minivans accompanied by Department of Technical

Investigation (DTI) cars come to a neighborhood, the neighbors already

know what will happen. Most likely the dreaded entourage will park

outside some freshly painted house with a wall around it and glass

windows. The uniforms will enter and execute a thorough search, in order

to then take — handcuffed and in full view of the curious — the

frightened administrator of some corporation or a scared company manager.

These raids have become so frequent that it's enough to say, "Yesterday

they collared a guy…" for everyone to know what that means. Later the

detainee is taken to Villa Marista, to spend some weeks incommunicado

and without the right to an attorney. His family cannot see him, and can

barely bring him a toothbrush and the medications he relies on.

Even foreigners can't save themselves from such shocks, as demonstrated

in the case of several British executives from the Coral Capital Group

Ltd., for alleged bribery while working on a golf course

project. Another alarming example was the case of the Chilean brothers

Max and Marcel Marambio, who escaped to their country after being

accused of bribery, fraud and falsifying bank documents in the

management of the business Rio Zaza

The crusade against corruption displayed by keeps in

suspense those who think they are protected by the lack of control and

political will to end the illegalities. The raid touches the doors of

wealthy construction bosses, powerful directors who manage, according to

their own whims, imports of merchandise, and others who fill their

pockets from the hospitality industry.

The only ones saved from a court date are those who belong to the inner

core of the Government. Having participated in the struggles of the

Sierra Maestra, or in the first moments of the Revolutionary process, is

now the best protection for not ending up in . An olive-green

uniform, the ranks of general or comandante, ward off any investigation

of mismanagement.

Even the Comptroller General of the Republic, Gladys Bejarano herself,

stops dead and turns back when a thread from the skein of corruption

reaches too high. This was demonstrated in the scandal at the Civil

Aeronautics Institute, where the principal responsible — General Rogelio

Acevedo — was simply removed but did not face the courts, though several

of his employees did.

These dishonest businessmen accumulate status symbols, ranging from the

gift of a house or car for their lovers, to paying for their children to

study at universities abroad. They no longer resemble their former

selves, now they drink whiskey instead of rum and eat salmon instead of


When they started their new jobs they arrived repeating the iron

discourse of austerity and discipline, but now their bellies hang over

their belts as they smoke their cigars. Some came from the military

sphere or Party structures, and moved to the business sector after

finishing a tour of duty… in the land of the enemy. Over time they were

enriched and believed that their contacts with foreign firms, or their

commercial around the world, were sufficient guarantees of

impunity. A good share of them were born after 1959 and knew the rules

of the market only through books on socialist and scientific

communism that demonized them.

They were molded to be what Che Guevara called the "New Man," but in the

end did not manage to be the "Honest Man" free of the scourge of theft

and the temptation of embezzlement. Now they are falling, shivering with

cold and fear in some cell at Villa Marista, confessing their misdeeds

under the incandescent bulb in the interrogation room.

Outside, away from the feared headquarters of the Ministry of the

Interior, the web of corruption remakes and reweaves itself. Lurking in

wait for the most difficult moments to pass, before falling, once again

and with greater force, on the tasty Cuban cake.

6 June 2012

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