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.
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.
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.