Cuba and Weeding Out Corruption
Cuba and Weeding Out Corruption
November 6, 2014
HAVANA TIMES — The struggle against corruption in Cuba has proven to be
a long-distance race where every lap presents new and more difficult
challenges. It’s like opening a Russian nesting doll and finding that
the one inside is larger than the first.
The Comptroller’s Office is making a huge effort, but it is pitted
against a silent army of corrupt and/or inept officials united by common
financial interests. They protect and rescue one another as they are
This is why the Comptroller’s Office complains that some of the inept
officials who are dismissed reappear six months later as managers in a
different company. Their mutual aid network reaches far back in history,
having emerged as a means of skirting regulations against nepotism.
Official X cannot give his son or wife a good job where they work, so
official Y gives them a good position in his place of work. In exchange,
X repays Y by hooking up his relatives and friends with jobs where one
can get one’s hand on hard currency, trips and gasoline.
Most of those who have been hooked up become the accomplices and
enablers of the person who hooked them up. Thus, X and Y surround
themselves with a group of unconditional officials who put up a
smokescreen when a State inspection or audit is conducted.
Tearing down such protective walls is not an easy task for the
Comptroller’s Office, which has had significant success nonetheless.
These, however, could well be tiny victories, because corruption, like
weeds, tends to grow back, in the same place and just as vigorously as
The mechanisms that once allowed authorities to know the workings of all
Cuban companies – unions, Party cliques or the Young Communists League
(UJC) – are today in cahoots with the management, covering up
inefficiency, deliberately overlooking mistakes and sometimes even
concealing corrupt practices.
Only that can explain how thirty or so patients at Havana’s psychiatric
hospital died of hunger and exposure without any of these organizations
having sounded off the alarm or reported, through the appropriate
channels, that the staff was stealing these patients’ food and coats.
Common folk, the average Cuban, the simple factory worker – these people
do however know what goes on at these places. They know the absurd
things being done in their companies, how much is being stolen and how
and, most importantly, by whom.
They, however, do not have the means to report on the true situation at
their place of work. I know a young Cuban woman who approached her trade
union leader to report on some problems at a factory and was called in
by the manager that same day to be given a “dressing down.”
Workers are not the only ones who suffer this. Some State company
managers are actually threatened by officials at import companies and
forced to do business with foreign suppliers who are paying these
officials commissions under the table.
Every time anyone rubs salt on the wound, the “sharks” bare their teeth.
As a result of this, some people have learned to keep quiet and look the
other way, allowing the bigwigs at their company to do well provided
they get a piece of the action.
The workers are not responsible for this situation. They have merely
adapted as best they can to the mechanisms established by the
government, to the officials appointed by the government and the
salaries decreed by the government.
Many common people hate corrupt officials and have contempt for inept
managers. They say nothing merely because they have no means to do so:
they distrust the existing channels and fear reprisals, lest their
bosses find out where the criticisms are coming from.
A man from the countryside once told me that marabou brush can be only
be kept at bay with two fingers: those of the farmer that rips out new
shoots every day. While the official channels continue not to work, the
average Cuban will not join the weeding efforts, and the terrains that
are cleaned will surely become contaminated once again.
Source: Cuba and Weeding Out Corruption – Havana Times.org –