Corruption: Enemy No. 1 of Cuba’s Socialism

Rosa Martinez

Ramon Luis LInares, ex-First Vice Minister of Telecommunications. Photo: La Jornada/Gerardo Arreola

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 14 — For Cubans, corruption is the appropriation of state funds or public property by government officials, allowing them to enjoy a standard of living higher than that of the working class, with such privileges and comfort maintained only in that manner.

The first major case of corruption occurring after the revolution that shocked the Cuban people (though not the only one) was that of General Arnaldo Ochoa and Colonel Tony de la Guardia, involving drug trafficking.

Unlike the cases of the previous decade, the trial of these two important military officers was broadcast in full on television, and Fidel Castro made a speech related to the case.

In recent years we have seen the fall of many high political and administrative leaders, often for embezzling monies allocated for public works. Such individuals have included everyone from Juan Carlos Robinson (who was sentenced to 12 years in prison), to Carlos Lage Davila, a confidant of both Fidel and Raul Castro.

We saw the downfall of the minister of Food, Alejandro Roca, one of the Cuban ministers who had held their posts the longest; the minister of Basic Industry, Yadira Garcia Vera; the minister of Foreign Investment, Marta Lomas; the president of the Central Bank of Cuba, Francisco Soberon; General Rogelio Acevedo Gonzalez, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and many others who are not worth remembering.

Photo: Caridad

Each and every one of these camajanes [opportunists] tried to bleed the very government that had put its trust and resources in their hands, with these individuals consequently hurting people who depended so much on their decisions.

Although our media said little or nothing about most of these cases — as is almost always the situation — our population is usually able to ferret out most of the information.

It’s impossible to keep a secret about an issue that upsets not only average Cubans, but also those officials who aren’t corrupt, though their numbers are shrinking daily.

A person will have an acquaintance, friend or a family member who finds out about some problem and sooner rather than later they’ll inform their acquaintances; not to mention the Internet, which makes it increasingly more difficult to keep anything a secret.

Every day, Cubans talk among themselves “in low voices” about some official up to their usual tricks, either in the party’s Central Committee or some higher-up in any of the 15 provinces.

The latest case that had everybody talking on the Internet was that involving the first deputy minister of Informatics and Communications, Ramon Luis Linares; and Deputy Minister Alberto Rodriguez Arufe – who were dismissed from their posts for acts of corruption related to the project of laying an underwater cable between Cuba and Venezuela and its subsequent connection on the island.

It would seem that with such scandals appearing so frequently we’d get used to our “leaders” stuffing their mattresses with the people’s money, but that isn’t the case. Every day there are more people who dare to report cases that ultimately unmask some of these culprits.

Photo: Caridad

Corruption has contaminated our society and our lives, beginning with the black market (involving workers and managers alike) and ending in the upper echelons of society. Indeed, it’s the latter that causes the most havoc.

The big difference between corruption at the bottom and that of the big fish is that these senior leaders spend many years committing their misdeeds. When discovered many are simply transferred or even promoted to new positions from which they’re likely to continue skimming off the top.

Others simply disappear, as if by magic, though what happens is that they’re sent home with all the spoils they’ve accumulated from years of thieving. Only a handful of them are ever sentenced, and these serve just a few years in prison.

If we really want to fight corruption, like Raul said, then we must first expose those who are corrupt – no matter who they are. Secondly, we need to inform our people; they deserve to know every detail of every single case.

Finally, those individuals who undermine the prestige and credibility of our leaders need to be punished with the full force of justice. Otherwise, if we allow corruption to eat away at our society, we will be acting as silent accomplices to the fall of the social system that most of us defend.

6 thoughts on “Corruption: Enemy No. 1 of Cuba’s Socialism

  • If corruption is declared enemy #1, and the War on Corruption is encouraged from the top, then the corrupt officials will resist temptation. In the meantime, we may say corruption is a main feature of both capitalist and socialist societies.

  • The root of corruption is the nature of man. Corruption has nothing to do with the political system or the stated objective of political parties. man is an acquisative and greedy animal. corruption can never be eliminated. it is like squeezing a balloon. the best that can be done is to try and keep it at a minimum. changing political systems to stop corruption or publishing a new book of ideology for the same purpose is a waste of time. in france, the traditional penalty for stealing food from a shop if you are hungry is a week in jail. that’s a week more than banksters. a lot of petty crime should be ignored. the cost of enforcement is higher than the damage.

  • There is corruption in every country. There is corruption in every war. Many believe that a little bit of corruption oils the wheels of commerce. note that iceland is the only country to hire an investigator with the intention of prosecuting their banksters. what’s the capital of iceland? about 25 cents!

  • This well-meaning article, unfortunately, misunderstands the struggle against corruption as identifying the actions of certain human beings and prosecuting the individual offenders. This is like blaming the manifestations of a disease for the underlying cause of the symptoms. The question should be asked as to the origin of the ailment.

    Corruption in Cuba, whether on top, bottom or in between, originates in the mistaken concept of socialism as where the state owns everything directly, and is the one-big-employer of everyone. To rail against corruption, and characterize it as enemy-number-one therefore, is to miss the point. You don’t cure a disease by criticizing symptoms and applying palliatives to relieve them.

    If Cuba wishes to abolish corruption, she must strike at its root. This is not the individuals who are corrupt, for they are the merely the manifestations of the underlying cause. Cuba must evolve a cooperative and democratic mode of production that allows those who work and produce to manage the work enterprise, and benefit or suffer from its performance.

    With state power in the hands of a sincere transformationary party, this mode would be the salvation of the Cuban revolution.

  • If there are so many corrupt senior officials, then it begs the question who made the fatal error of appointing them and keeping them in the jobs for so long? Why are those now silent who pretended to be the friends of the officials before their exposure? Are they scared they could also be exposed without a right to a fair trial such as Felipe Perez Roque – not that he ever defended the rights of others under suspicion to a fair trial. Here I wished Rosa would be less blue-eyed about guilty as charged without a right to a fair and public defence without the defending lawyer having to fear for himself or herself.
    Perhaps those exposed officials looked fine to the big brass because they mastered the art of pretending ideological commitment in a society where pretending counts most.
    Could those who appointed the corrupt officials be capable of making other fatal errors of judgement? Who controls controllers doing that job for fifty years plus? Nobody outside a handful of people knows the truth about the Ochoa case, but was it REALLY possible for a Cuban general to be a drug dealer and not be exposed until the Western media alluded to it, without the top brass knowing?
    Questions only an open society will get answers to where nobody is above accounatbility.

  • As a supporter of both the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions I can tell you this is a concern also in Venezuela.

    Just this passed week in Caracas the UNT. many socilaist and Left wing and grassroots groups demostrated against the bureaucracy and capitalism and for socialist revolution.

    We feel the pain of the massses worldwide who struggle for a better world and humanity.

    Rojo Rojito

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