Getting Tough on Corruption in Cuba
By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Jul 3 2013 (IPS) – As two separate trials of foreign businessmen
continued amid extreme discretion, the Cuban government passed new
anti-corruption measures, apparently indicating the Raúl Castro
government’s desire to avoid loose ends with this thorny problem.
Castro, who is in his second and last five-year presidential term, said
“the shameful matter of acts of indiscipline and illegalities” would be
addressed “in-depth” during the parliament meeting set for Saturday Jul.
6. More than once, the president has said that such actions are a threat
to the foundations of the country’s social system.
People posting comments on Café 108, the interactive section of the IPS
Cuba bureau’s website, expressed scepticism about the possibility of
short-term results in the crackdown on corruption, a problem that some
described as a “product of the crisis” or a phenomenon “present in
everyday life for Cubans.”
It is “damaging to the country, a bad example for the coming
generations, insufficiently fought, tolerated, insufficiently reported
by the media, not criticised at all among the populace, permitted in the
family, a way of life for meeting household needs, and a breeding ground
for the enemy,” wrote one participant, who signed as “Naue,” and also
noted what had happened to essayist Esteban Morales after he published
articles on the issue.
In a recent interview that circulated on the Internet, Morales said that
the problem was being tackled, but still insufficiently.
In his opinion, the public should be urged to act. “Innovation is needed
for combating corruption, because none of the methods used until now
have managed to eliminate the problem. And I think innovation could lie
in organising the masses, not the bureaucrats, for this battle,” he told
While other analysts agree that legal measures alone are not enough for
addressing this delicate matter, changes and steps taken in that area
are part of a broader effort toward institutionalisation in Cuba
undertaken by Castro, who began by creating the Office of the
Comptroller General of the Republic in 2009.
In June, Cuba`s Central Bank began enforcing a number of general
regulations for detecting and preventing illegal movements of capital,
money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and changes to the
penal code and procedural law were introduced. These regulations
followed the creation in March of a state oversight agency tasked with
uprooting administrative corruption.
Economists consulted by IPS said bank regulations would not discourage
However, a Latin American executive doing business in Cuba warned that
operations with foreign clients would become more complicated due to the
larger amount of information that will have to be requested by Cuban
banks, which are also obligated to establish verification procedures.
The executive, who is associated with the banking sector, said these
rules were not new to him, given that regulations in the sector were
passed some time ago in his country. And Pável Vidal, an academic and
specialist in financial matters, told IPS that the regulations “are in
line with the new times.”
“At an international level, banks are tending to use more caution and
control for all types of transactions,” he said. Among other measures,
financial institutions must verify a client’s identity with reliable
data from independent sources, continuously monitor the commercial
relationship, and prevent the “opening of coded or numbered accounts.”
In another decision this year, the Council of State, presided over by
Castro, announced a decision to create a state oversight commission,
whose principal mission will be “the presentation, analysis and study of
significant cases where illegality, suspected criminal actions and
corruption are manifest.”
The new body, charged with “intensifying the study of the causes and
conditions that give rise to acts of corruption,” and with curbing and
eliminating the problem, replaces and confers the rank of state agency
on a government commission with the same purpose that existed since 2008
as a government advisory body.
The commission’s president is Gladys Bejerano, who has been Comptroller
General of the Republic since that office was created to increase
internal control and “to directly confront any manifestation of
corruption.” Bejerano has gained a reputation for vigorously fulfilling
In the context of what the official media calls the “perfecting of
Cuba’s criminal justice system,” in October a number of changes to the
penal code and criminal procedural law will go into effect, with the
goal of updating current regulations and bringing them into harmony with
other changes taking place in the country’s social and economic life.
At the same time, the Supreme Court instructed that “particular
attention” was to be paid to cases involving foreign suspects or Cubans
who are permanent residents of other countries; that the former should
be guaranteed consular access as an “essential requirement” for their
defence; and that they should not be tried without the proper diplomatic
steps being taken.
In May, foreign businessmen were tried on corruption-related charges in
two separate trials. Neither the trials, held behind closed doors in
Havana, nor the sentences handed down were reported in the state media.
There were no official announcements about the matter, either, even
though international news agencies reported on the cases.
The foreign press reported that Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian,
originally from Armenia and owner of the import company Tri-Star
Caribbean, and Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian were sentenced in
late June to nine and four years in prison, respectively.
Meanwhile, Amado Fakhre and Stephen Purvis, executives of the British
investment firm Coral Capital Group Ltd, who were found guilty on lesser
charges, were released on time served after they were arrested in 2011,
according to diplomatic sources quoted in foreign media reports.
Between 2011 and 2012, numerous Cuban citizens, a French businessman,
and two Chileans (tried in absentia) were sentenced in Havana on
Source: “IPS – Getting Tough on Corruption in Cuba | Inter Press