Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — I have dealt with matters linked to the cooperative I belong to (CCS Desembarco del Granma, in Mayari) and farmers’ problems in some of my previous articles. However, in my latest article on the subject, entitled Nothing Resembles Cuba More than a Cooperative, I dealt with electoral fraud and accusations of corruption which have been made.
Lilise Ricardo Rodriguez, former ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) representative at the CCS (Credit and Services Cooperative) filed the main complaint, listing 28 irregularities in a letter she sent to every authority. On May 23rd, a special meeting was held by the provincial and municipal ANAP with its members in order to give answers and make decisions.
It took them seven months to decide to intervene and it’s clear that they’ve only done this because other complaints have been made, demanding them to act; recently, there was a petition signed by many farmers who said their credits had been stolen.
The provincial ANAP’s legal representative chaired the meeting and owned the stage. He was the “judge and prosecutor” of the rigged trial for the cooperative’s management. If we compare corruption in the CSS with an iceberg, that’s only the tip above water-level, the rest (which is three times bigger) wasn’t touched. However, it was enough to lock up the economist and president. However, the legal representative, “a man of the law”, reduced violations with an argument that was hard to swallow: “That they didn’t keep a single cent for themselves”, that they only “acted badly.”
I will fill you in with just some of the irregularities that were tossed aside:
- For five years (but only the last year was audited), they have been withdrawing money freely from the socio-cultural account (the members’ joint fund), violating established regulations, without getting members’ approval beforehand.
- The money was mostly accounted for in tasks and expenses which aren’t authorized to receive payment from this account by law, and it’s hard to verify what it was used for exactly after such a long time.
- The cooperative’s management used a contract with a building company to provide a service, a concrete slab for a private home it seems, costing 6,000 pesos, via a self-employed wine producer, which sells for 5 times the price on the street. They said it was an act of charity. However, it wasn’t approved at an Assembly like it should be, nor was it offered to a member, many of whom have housing problems.
- The abovementioned wine producer has a thriving business, but without asking members at an assembly for their approval, which he is a member of, the president exempted him from paying 2% of the contribution we all have to make to the socio-cultural fund. This was also an act of charity, allegedly.
- The president drew up a contract for her son as a guard, earning more than double her own salary, which is generally the highest. All of this was done without an assembly’s approval, as stipulated.
Several complaints were made about problems with credits, but the legal representative refused to discuss them at that time because, according to him, “they were still being assessed” and “would be resolved later”. He repeated that he was asking for the “president and economist’s definitive separation from their positions”, but at the same time, he continued to repeat that “they haven’t stolen anything, they haven’t put the cooperative in jeopardy.”
Three or four farmers, the president’s friends who were clearly prepped well in advance to ask to speak first, tried to reduce the severity of the crimes committed. They said things like: “They made mistakes because they were unaware,” “they needed more experience,” “you can’t ruin people and forget all the good they have done.” The objective was to sway the room and neutralize the audience.
You would think that the provincial and municipal ANAP political administration, as well as the legal representative, all of whom are Communist Party members with a great deal of political training, would leave behind their conformist stance with corruption and explain just how serious these errors were, which are rather punishable crimes. But, that wasn’t the case.
It seemed like an orchestrated plot. They consented and the vote was 24 in favor and 30 against. The sentence was the shortest possible: 6 months stripped of their positions. The People’s Council president, who was present, asked to speak first but by the time she was finally given the floor, seeing the way things were going, she decided not to say anything and left outraged. She receives many complaints from the cooperative on a daily basis and she knows how badly it operates.
It has been a long struggle for a group of farmers against corruption. There were some farmers who stopped and bravely spoke their minds, asking for them to be released from their duties definitively. In the face of this conspiracy, others said: “If you claim that you haven’t stolen anything, then tell us where the money is.”
It has been a very interesting show, but getting them to this point was a huge victory against corruption, after seven months of trying “to pass the buck.” Both the local government as well as those who were wronged the most, presented their complaints to the District Attorney’s Office in Mayari and they are waiting for a hearing.
Let’s see if they finally investigate the problem once and for all and that the truth comes out. It is still unknown whether Lilise, the plaintiff, will recover her position, which she lost because she wouldn’t go along with the corrupt.