By Manuel Roblejo Proenza (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES — I have spent nearly a third of my life working in a state-run company’s office. Between my work mates’ rumors, mockery, fears, betrayals and other demons, you could say that I have seen everything under the sun.
These ups and downs of human passions vary depending on how good, acceptable or poor the management of the hour are; but there is one variable that hasn’t changed in almost 11 years of work, the secret weapon of faceless informers: anonymous letters.
Obviously, anonymous letters aren’t only limited to workplaces. Although a long tradition of using and exploiting them (encouraged by a government policy which allowed and even promoted them) has come to make us Cubans a kind of experts in the matter. Anonymous letters reached their peak in the middle of the crisis in the ‘90s, when corruption reached such stratospheric levels that any information on the subject was useful.
I don’t know if the Cuban Communist Party has a “Department of Anonymous Letters” (or ever had one); however, what has been proven is that the same problems which are brought up in the middle of a meeting said “at the wrong time and place” and are passed on to higher levels never to be heard of again, cause a great commotion in writing and may even find a solution, when they are sent with enough force.
There is a common factor among authors of anonymous letters: they seem afraid to defend their opinions in public. I don’t know whether this is just a Cuban phenomenon, but I believe that there are a great abundance of those who are afraid to pull the trigger, or in this case the pen. Cowards? This country is too complex for me to go out on a limb and label them.
There are “vengeful” anonymous letters, like the one a furious mother sends to the director of a day care center, denouncing that their girls have their hair cut there and that she knows that there are day care workers who then sell the hair for add-ons. There are other “speculative” letters, where a concerned person writes to a construction company’s management to say that they aren’t sure, but they think that the builders in front of their home aren’t throwing all of the cement into the mix for the new building and that they should look into it. However, this kind of anonymous letter doesn’t always get a response.
The most common kind of letters, especially in a socialist (what else?) state company environment, are the “cutting” anonymous letters. Like a poisonous asp, it tries to be the final blow to someone’s position, or them staying behind the helm, or, worse yet, in the whiteness of their “revolutionary” conditions.
Not too long ago, someone in my company accused someone else anonymously by sending a letter to the manager, saying that he was a slave driving boss and that he used the company’s transport and resources for his own convenience; as well as putting his qualities as a Communist Party member into question.
The bad thing about anonymous letters at work is that everyone starts imagining who could have possibly written it, and there was a suspect this time too. Almost simultaneously, another anonymous letter (although not so anonymous anymore) appeared in the director’s office, where the alleged author of the first letter was dryly accused of being (and we have to point this out) a counter-revolutionary, the most feared social plague in this country.
A Party comrade at the company told me that now they would have to create a committee to “investigate” both cases due to these letters, and that’s exactly what happened.
The thing is, though, that investigating without the accuser’s help is almost impossible, and an anonymous letter is like the opposite of a suicide note, where you start off with almost nothing (nothing at all a lot of the time) to investigate anything that can be “investigated”. Cutting to the chase, both workers were sanctioned at the same time almost, without receiving many reasons; because, if you look for something in anyone’s office documents over the last five years, you’ll find something.
Of course, the work colleague being accused of being a “counter-revolutionary” was punished for filling official documents out badly; because, if it’s easy to accuse someone of being a counter-revolutionary (especially anonymously), it’s harder to prove it, given the meaning this word (and its antonym) have taken in our society for over half a century. While power structures here in Cuba have encouraged this kind of “weapon” which only really resolves a problem very rarely; and which, in my opinion, only serve to stir dislikes, envy and divisions between us.
Right now, I don’t have a position, or car, or anything else that someone might be interested in (or so I think); so I hope an anonymous letter with my name is never sent (God willing). With this article, I call upon my colleague who has me in his sights to tell me whatever they think to my face. Or at least that they sign their anonymous letter against me, please.