Harmful Recycling: On Cuba’s Inept Officials
September 26, 2013
HAVANA TIMES — Since my arrival in Cuba, I’ve been hearing people say
that their leaders, after being dismissed for incompetence and the like,
tend to fall, not from grace, but “to new heights”.
It doesn’t matter how useless a “cadre” turns out to be, there will
always be another management position open to them.
This practice is so widespread that the woman now leading Cuba’s fight
against corruption, Comptroller General of the Republic Gladys Bejerano,
complained because, every so often, she will run into an official who
was dismissed for incompetence at a management position in a different
With such “recycling” policies in place, it comes as no surprise that
75% of all audited workplaces on the island get a bad review. The
Comptroller’s Office exposed 12 cases of criminal activity and 7
incidents of corruption, but imposed sanctions on 582 managers for not
doing their jobs properly. It seems that the inept far outnumber the
These individuals manage to survive thanks to the complicity of the “top
leaders of political and grassroots organizations attached to their
companies, who, on occasion, are in connivance with the management of
these workplaces,” a reader of Granma newspaper explains in one of the
periodical’s Letters to the Editor.
This is why “many people opt not to get into trouble and to wait for
things to collapse under their own weight.” Confronting an inept manager
entails antagonizing the company management, the Party representatives
and the union leadership at the workplace.
The reader adds that “cadre policy” is being violated “at several
entities”, which hire inept managers because of “double standards,
camaraderie and string-pulling.” That is what common Cubans are talking
about when they mockingly refer to the country’s system as “sociolismo”
(in Cuban slang, “socio” means buddy. A rough translation would be:
Some of these issues were already addressed in a previous post,
published a mere two weeks ago. At many workplaces, the management,
Party, Young Communists League (UJC) and unions act as a single
authority, to the point that they go by a single, generic name: “the
A veteran communist explained to me that the original idea was to have
each of these different bodies monitor and check one another. What
actually happens, though, is that these officials act as clan,
protecting one another from employee complaints and State inspections.
Some years ago, a worker at a fish-packing plant told me he had a few
days of intense work ahead of him, that he had to scramble to “put
everything in order”, because a “surprise audit” by the Ministry of
Fisheries was about to be conducted. He explained to me that all members
of “the administration” were helping touch up the place.
Of course, with such an inspection method in place, the economy was
doing very well – State companies passed all tests, no corrupt managers
or inept bosses were ever detected and all production plans were being
fulfilled ahead of schedule, even though the country was producing less
When real inspections began to be conducted, the general manager of
fish-packing company ended up in jail. The question is: why did he enjoy
the support of the Party, UJC and union leadership for so many years?
Many were likely unaware this individual was stealing from the company,
but everyone doubtless knew the company wasn’t doing well. Despite this,
they continued to pressure workers so that they would express their
criticisms “through the appropriate channels”, that is to say, through
This is the way in which information is controlled in a number of State
companies, which is why bureaucrats are so afraid of the press. Cuban
journalists, however, are beginning to poke holes in the veil of secrecy
that covers up so many inept and corrupt individuals.
Curiously, despite the many let downs, when a “cadre” is thought to be
politically trustworthy and entrusted with a management position, it
would seem he’s acquired a lifetime position that entitles him to
undertake any type of activity.
Both the government and general population concur that improving the
economy is the country’s top priority. Thus, the “political
trustworthiness” of a cadre should no longer be measured by what he says
but by his actual professionalism, honesty and leadership skills.
Schools for government cadres can be useful in terms of improving the
skills of those who have already demonstrated an aptitude for the
positions they’ve been assigned. As for the rest, they should be allowed
to fall to the bottom, for recycling inept people only produces a fresh
batch of inept people – and they’re a bit more clever the second time
(*) An authorized HT translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.
Source: “How Cuba’s System Recycles Inept Officials” –