Cuba's High-Flying Corruption
June 16, 2011
HAVANA TIMES, June 16 – The trials of corrupt figures in Cuba are
monopolizing the attention of many people. Some are trying to use these
to convince us that the revolution is hopelessly rotten, while others
have just now discovered that it's the system is not immune to mundane sins.
It's clear that this is an international phenomenon having neither
national nor political color. What's curious is that the situations in
other countries often make corruption on the island seem like child's play.
I'm thinking about the political, military and corporate connections
with drug syndicates in Mexico and Colombia, though without overlooking
the first world's multi-billion dollar swindles by companies in the
United States or horrifying real estate schemes in Europe.
In fact, one of the demands of the "indignant" Spanish youths is that
politicians convicted for corruption cannot run in subsequent elections,
as did several in recent political contests.
Corruption is nothing new in Cuba. In fact, what's happening now is
that it's becoming more common to see embezzlers sitting behind defense
tables, including those who once held important government and business
This is a staggering blow for those who believed in a chaste revolution,
one able to conceive without sinning. Now, to the contrary, they can
confirm that this has involved a revolutionary process exposed to the
same virus that makes the rest of humanity sick.
Some of my colleagues are complaining that the scalpel isn't cutting
everything as deep as it should, but for me what's particularly
interesting is that the government has in fact decided to apply surgical
techniques to the problem, and they're doing it publically.
It seems that corrupt politicians will no longer be dealt with as
"miscalculating comrades" who always deserve a second chance. Now such
individuals are running the risk of being tried and convicted as common
However not all Cubans agree. Many consider the sentences much too
lenient. "They'll give you more years in jail for killing a cow than
what they gave those people who murdered dozens of psychiatric
patients," one of my neighbors commented.
In any case, it's healthy that corrupt doctors are being tried, as are
government ministers who became rich speculating with people's food and
those who have milked public corporations like Cubana de Aviacion.
An acquaintance who clandestinely sells ice cream told me that the
police came to his house asking for the names of those who sell that
product to him. "We're not interested in you, but the ones who steal
whole truckloads from the factory," the officers explained to him.
The problem is that struggle against corruption will be a pyrrhic
victory if the attack doesn't include those at the top. They can fill
the jails with street re-sellers but the evil will be reproduced if the
kingpins who divert public resources onto the black market aren't put
Much information is still lacking about the crimes committed and their
economic, social and human implications. It continues to remain unclear
how people were able to embezzle millions of dollars from the treasury
without anyone noticing.
In a country where it's said that all the means of production belong to
people, they should be entitled to know how much money was stolen from
them, how this was done and what measures the government will take so
that this isn't repeated.
In the streets of Cuba there are billboards showing the calculations for
how many daycare centers could be built if the US embargo didn't exist.
They should put up other signs explaining what they would have been
able to do with the funds stolen by this or that bureaucrat.
Corrupt politicians and businesspeople are not simple hustlers who know
how to savor life better than the rest of us. In fact, under both
socialism and capitalism they're no more than pickpockets who make their
fortunes lifting our very own wallets.
There are those who assure that "all those involved" still haven't been
taken to court. I don't doubt that but I'll bet that the trials will
continue and that other leaders will be lined before judges.
Comptroller Gladys Bejerano is enlisting her "troops" to expand the
offensive. The feared "Anti-corruption Lady" promised that in addition
to pursuing illegalities, she would monitor administrative honesty and
the efficient use of public funds.
The fact that the convictions are being covered in the press along with
the reporting of the names of the criminals is having a preventive
effect. This is a warning that certain crimes will no longer be dealt
with by sending people home to cool their heels in their pajama;
instead, they're going to be carted off to jail in full prison uniforms.
Emptying prisons of political opponents who imply no real threat to the
government and filling those facilities with corrupt bureaucrats who
have been eating away at the nation from the inside seems the most
sensible strategy for those attempting to save the system.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original)
published by BBC Mundo.