Cuba’s Anti-Corruption Effort Turns Five
Cuba’s Anti-Corruption Effort Turns Five
July 3, 2014
HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s Comptroller’s office turns five years old and the
anniversary is celebrated with the most important corruption trial in
recent years, with heavy prison sentences requested for prominent
foreign businessmen and top Cuban officials.
The appointment of Gladys Bejerano as Comptroler said little in itself
to most Cubans but raised the ears of many politicians who tried to
influence President Raul Castro to prevent the official from launching a
full-fledged anti-corruption campaign.
After five years of operation the rest of us begin to understand the
resentment of government administrators. Ms. Bejerano has sent to prison
ministers, deputy ministers, managers and directors, foreign businessmen
and many “rich kids”.
The signs of what was to come were not lacking; even President Raul
Castro said in a public speech that no Cuban should believe that he/she
is above the law, bearing a clear message to the ruling class and their
The Comptroller’s office was essential to combat internal corruption, a
cancer that had metastasized throughout the body of the nation, to the
point that Fidel Castro himself felt the need back in 2005 to warn that
the revolution could destroy itself.
Gladys Bejerano has sent ministers, deputy ministers, managers,
directors, administrators, foreign businessmen and many “rich kids” to
Despite the limited information provided about the fight against
corruption, this five-year period makes clear that the disease is
clearly immune to the ideological training of the political and
government cadres and business ethics of some foreign millionaires.
Elements that facilitate corruption
Corruption is certainly not a problem unique to Cuba but the island has
a long tradition. Back in 1951, Fulgencio Batista said that embezzlement
was one of the three major problems of the country and that “the crisis
was not derived because of the crimes committed, but because they were
There’s no way to avoid that some people are corrupted but there are
elements that facilitate this. In Cuba, the fertile ground comes from
excessive centralization, lack of controls, lack of transparency, and a
lack of a vigilant press and bureaucratic oversight mechanisms.
The government promotes changes in all these areas but progresses very
slowly. The ministries themselves are reluctantly letting go of some of
their businesses and allowing for cooperatives to replace them, but the
change is at a snail’s pace.
The huge number of companies in the hands of the government directly
affects the lack of oversight and the need to maintain a huge,
bureaucratic apparatus that often generates more problems than solutions.
Companies are created to manage other companies as is the case of import
firms, further detaching them from the retailer and their customers
while generating one more level susceptible to corruption. Officials
serving prison sentences have commented that sometimes the supposed cure
is worse than the disease.
The oversight of all these activities is very difficult and the State as
both judge and jury doesn’t work. At a food company I know, the ministry
that it is under warns weeks in advance of the “surprise” inspection it
plans to carry out.
Likewise, little progress has been made on the issue of transparency,
essential if they want people to participate in any way in the fight
against corruption. When citizens cannot demand information from
officials it creates a grey area that facilitates crimes.
The press could do a lot to promote transparency but the steps it has
taken thus far are still minimal. Officials still believe they can
handle journalists at will. Just days ago a newspaper claimed that the
director of a hospital tried to forbid them from writing.
The work of the Comptroller during these five years has been very
commendable but the cancer will be reborn again and again if the fight
against corruption is not accompanied by other social, economic and
political transformations in the nation.
(*) Visit the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.
Source: Cuba’s Anti-Corruption Effort Turns Five – Havana Times.org –