by José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas (Progreso Weekly)
HAVANA TIMES — The contents of USB memory sticks and DVDs now circulating informally in Cuba reveal three realities as hard as rocks: three cases of corruption (now dismantled) that demonstrate how dangerous that practice is if not attacked in time and with vigor.
The unofficial videos show police operations at the Guantánamo Meat Packing Company, the Carlos III shopping center in Havana and the Community Services Company of Old Havana.
In the most illustrative of the three cases, the accused employees stole more than 33 million 845 thousand pesos from the sanitation budget of a patrimonial territory. They did so by simply making out bank withdrawal forms that were signed by the company’s director, who never reviewed the documents.
“Every 15 days, I would [withdraw] $480,000-and-some pesos,” says a young defendant, who admits to the camera how long he and his co-defendants engaged in the theft.
One hidden camera in the eastern province of Guantánamo showed how, as other workers looked on impassively, employees in a meat packing company slipped packages of newly processed meat to associates outside.
Another video revealed the shady maneuvers by employees at a hard-currency store (one of the establishments known as TRDs) in the Carlos III shopping mall in Havana.
In great detail, one of the arrested sales clerks describes a procedure that is very common in almost all commercial establishments in Cuba:
“The theft is done through a document that lists the products and merchandise that are defective. The document is taken to the manager’s office, where it is reviewed and approved. This merchandise was never inspected by any committee.”
The manager completes the story. “The employees listed the ‘defective’ merchandise that they needed. They told me they’d be willing to buy it for a pittance. The merchandise wasn’t really defective.”
The manager also says that the employees used sales pads instead of computerized transactions, “so they could ‘fine’ [overcharge] the clients.” At the end of the day, when they recorded the products by their actual sales codes, they would split the difference among themselves.
The lack of control over public resources, on one hand, and the employees’ greed for material needs, on the other, are two of the conditions that these videos reveal as the causes of broken ethics.
“The key to the corruption is that I come to you, and do you favors because you’re a very needy person. I begin by bringing you a snack, then I take you to lunch, and before you realize it you’re totally committed to me,” says the main organizer of the Community Services theft.
The three examples caught on video confirm the various degrees of seriousness and extent of corruption in Cuba. They also account for the silence of the official media, because, as happens with increasing frequency, the videos were conceived for “select audiences,” were leaked, and for the past several weeks have been available to the ordinary citizen.
Many people lament that, because the disclosure of these activities demonstrates the words of President Raúl Castro, who on several occasions has said that a loosening of exigency leads to violations and corruption.
“That negligence, failure to do one’s duty, and the ignorance of cadres and administrative leaders […] is also a cloak that covers all the malfeasance and theft of not just hundreds of pesos, or thousands, or millions, but of hundreds of millions,” Castro said during a plenary meeting of the Party’s central committee.
It is hard to find an authority who will explain why these videos are not shown to the public at large as examples of good police work and as an acknowledgment of very deep societal problems.
Because of a history of concealing events that are detrimental to the official image (so as not to give “weapons to the enemy”) we can see in this lack of communication by the authorities a desire to maintain the “image of Cuba” free of those phenomena. But closing our eyes will not make the problem go away.