Esteban Morales on “Corrosive” Corruption in Cuba

Interview by Patricia Grogg

Esteban Morales. Photo: Patricia Grogg

HAVANA TIMES, Aug. 19  (IPS) — “I still view corruption as an extraordinary danger” to the country, as its “corrosive power” makes it a matter of “national security,” said Esteban Morales, who was expelled from the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) after publishing an article warning of its pervasive effects.

Morales has appealed to the PCC, in accordance with his rights under the statutes of the ruling party, which is the only political party recognized in Cuba.

“A commission has to analyze the appeal and make a decision. If I am not satisfied with the decision, I can take the case as far as the party congress. I will continue to appeal, because I think I have good reasons to do so,” he told IPS in this interview.

Meanwhile he remains “very active” as an academic and researcher, although he will retire in September from the teaching staff at the Centre for the Study of the Hemisphere and the United States (CEHSEU) at the University of Havana, which he helped to found and to which he has devoted a large part of his professional life.

“I’m retiring at 68. I’ll have more time and freedom for my academic work and research,” said Morales, who holds doctorates in science and economics and is an expert on Cuba-U.S. relations, as well as the author of essays, books and numerous articles on the equally sensitive subject of racism in his country.

Q: Since your separation from the PCC was made public, you have preferred to avoid contact with the press, especially foreign journalists. What made you change your mind and agree to this interview?

A: I think it is salutary to clear up certain points. Some people have said I was a privileged person, a security (secret service) agent, and now I wish to say this: No one will ever unearth any privileges of mine, because I have none. As for being a security agent, if I were, I would be proud of it, because in Cuba that is an honor.

My curriculum vitae is what speaks for me. I am a true academic, not an invented one. I have written dozens of works, not always on straightforward subjects, as well as doing a lot of teaching, lecturing at conferences and acting as an academic adviser. If anyone has any doubts, they need only enter my name into Google.

Others have taken delight in the idea that I might change sides and go over to the “dissidents.” Perhaps the counter-revolution, lacking as they are in leadership, thought that I could fill that gap for them. But people who really know me, know that that’s impossible, and that I’m a firmly committed, tenacious revolutionary. Furthermore, I have never had any pretensions to leadership or sought to be the centre of attention.

Q: Have you never wavered in your political convictions?

A: No, never. Even the sun has its sunspots; different evaluations are always possible. I may have given room to mistaken interpretations, although the spirit of the things I have written is clear, and they clearly come from a revolutionary position.

The Capri Hotel in Havana

I was a revolutionary before I was a party activist, and I will continue to be one. I decided my political stance over 50 years ago, and it was my free choice. I have never liked to play the lying game.

I am not paralyzed by what has happened. I will simply be much more careful about how I express myself and what I write, but I won’t stop doing it. I’m an intellectual whom the revolution has trained to warn honestly about things that can damage us, and that is what I have always done. These are the risks one just has to run.

Q: Doesn’t the fact of your punishment, after you publicly expressed your views on corruption and the risks it poses for the country’s political and social stability, contradict President Raul Castro himself, who said Aug. 1 that unity “is nurtured and harvested within the broadest possible socialist democracy and in open discussion of every issue, however sensitive, with the people”?

A: I believe debate and criticism are being encouraged by Raul and the party leadership. But there may be circumstances in which someone at some level does not quite agree.

I must say that exercising a critical approach is much more complex than the mere decision to do so. It has to do with the structures, the personalities and the different understandings people sometimes have of things. Or perhaps part of what I said could have been said in a different way. There’s a big gap between intentions and the way they are put into practice.

Q: What do you think is most worrying about corruption?

A: Its corrosive effect from the moral perspective. When morality and ethics are affected, the prestige of our political system is undermined and everything goes downhill. That’s why I agree with those who say corruption is a national security problem.

However, it won’t be solved just through more inspections and paperwork, but by being on the alert and creating mechanisms to prevent it, so that people who handle money and resources are constantly held accountable. Our country’s assets really do belong to the people, it’s not just talk.

Q: You are very well known for your work on the United States and its relations with Cuba, and on racism. What prompted you to write about corruption, an issue that, according to some government sectors, encourages campaigns to discredit the country if ventilated in public?

A: I wrote those articles because I believe these are the problems we are facing now. I have a motto: in the context of what we have lived through over all these years, I think whoever wants to be a revolutionary has to wage his own war, fight his own battles and run whatever risks there are. Otherwise he should just stay home and hide under the bed.

The claim that the enemy will take advantage of an open discussion of corruption does not immobilize me either, because it isn’t the enemy that is going to solve the problem for us: quite the contrary. I am one of those who think that sometimes it is healthier for us to recognize our shortcomings ourselves, than for the enemy to fling them back in our teeth, or save them up against us, which would be worse.

Q: Who are you referring to when you say “enemy”?

A: We cannot close our eyes to the fact that since the late 1980s, the focus of U.S. policy towards Cuba has changed. Nowadays, everything that is happening internally on the island is being observed and monitored by U.S. politicians and especially by the United States’ special services.

It is against this backdrop that I view the problem of corruption, which I still see as an extraordinary danger.


6 thoughts on “Esteban Morales on “Corrosive” Corruption in Cuba

  • August 25, 2010 at 2:02 am
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    Jones’ courageous testimony here demonstrates just how advanced the decay and rot has set into what is still essentially an unaccountable, and in large part criminal, stalinist bureaucracy, rather than a true, participatory proletarian democracy. If these people are not rooted-out immediately and democratic control enforced by the population over the bureaucracy, only the imperialists ’90 miles away’ will be the ultimate beneficiaries. There does not appear to be much time left to get this right the ‘easy’ way either.

  • August 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm
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    Dear Grady and Michael,

    It is hard for me to find the right words to express my gratitude to both of you, for your concern and support. Unfortunately, situations similar to my experience, Esteban and who knows how many others around the world, seems to be part of human weakness.

    Thanks to people like you and others, who have expressed their views on these injustices, we can hope that these unfortunate developments, may cease to occur everywhere.

    Rather than pitying oneself, we must re-commit ourselves to continue struggling for what is right and not be afraid of its consequences. That should be our contribution to mankind.

    Myself and Esteban knows who is right and who is wrong. The struggle continues.

    Abrazos,

    Alberto

  • August 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm
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    I am touched by your personal story, Alberto, and by the fact that despite injustices and adversities, you continue doing what is right, rather than joining the crooks in looting while feigning loyalty to the Revolution. Both you and Esteban Morales share this quality, and it reflects a quality which continues, both within the Cuban Revolution in particular, and within our species in general. Somehow, generation-by-generation, there are those who arrive at a higher conception of justice and morality, and they are unshakable in adhering to these principles. I hope that folks like you and Esteban Morales will continue to “lead the way out of the cave!”

  • August 20, 2010 at 10:00 am
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    The revolutionary example of Esteban Morales gives us the courage to continue to say what we know to be true, even in the face of those who do not understand and who misinterpret all.

    Esteban is not a sunshine patriot, and we own him our love and support.

  • August 20, 2010 at 5:54 am
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    For the past two months, much speculation has been going on among friends, supporters and adversaries of the Cuban Revolution, because of conflicting media reports about the fate of Dr. Esteban Morales. Personally, I hoped that the reported measures that has been taken against him for touching on a very hot button in Cuba was not true.

    Yet, my inner feelings and my personal experience suggested, I was setting up myself for a rude awakening, one similar to the jolt that shattered my life on November 24, 1974 in the city of Bayamo.

    Upon completion of my residency in Veterinary Pathology in Havana in 1970, I was assigned to the Oriente Provincial Diagnostic Laboratory as its director and pathologist. My area of responsibilities extended from Amacio Rodriguez in the west to Gran Tierra, Baracoa in the east or a rough equivalent of 1/3 of Cuba.

    Surprisingly, in lieu of receiving the normal “letter of presentation” to assume my post, Dr Villar, vice President of the Institute of Veterinary Medicine flew with me to Oriente . During the two hour flight, he briefed me on the critical situation of this lab, which was rated as the worst among the other five in the country, while he expressed his confidence that I would be able to turn it around.

    After one month on the job I learned that what Dr. Villar had told me in flight, was less than the tip of the iceberg. For the next three years I worked tirelessly building and staffing new diagnostic departments, service facilities and a provincial school to retrain all technitians from 13 regional labs. We developed a working-support base with the hospital, soil, hygiene, artificial insemination and bromatology labs in Bayamo, which expanded and deepened our diagnostic capabilities.

    These added human and material resources enabled our laboratory to introduce a number of new diagnostic tools, which led to the discovery of pathologies that were unknown in the province or the nation. At the same time, I was elected president of the provincial scientific board, foreign professionals assistant and adjunt instructor of pathology at the university, while advancing our laboratory from position 6 to 3 .

    Contrary to conventional beliefs, these successes irked some fellow professionals, whose sloppy work became public knowledge. By enforcing work ethics in the lab and by cutting out the corruption of many mid-high level managers and by denying entry of others unto our premises, which they had transformed into their private warehouse, from where they would shamelessly walk away with every possible material goods they could get their hands on, earned me more enemies than I first realized.

    Attempting to preserve their corrupt status-quo, they tried hard to drive me out of town by agreeing to “shut-off the lab light and water “, which meant, diverting every possible lab supply, canibilizing vehicles sent to the repair shop and by creating a permanent confrontation, rarefied cloud hanging over the lab, which required endless hours in conflict resolution among employees.

    After failing in each of these fronts, the crooks, corrupt, vulgar thieves, re-merged wrapped into revolutionary slogans and flashing their political ID, I was accused of the worst possible crimes against the Cuban government, for which the prosecutor requested 30 years imprisonment, I was later sentenced in a Kangaroo court to 8 and was released after 4 1/2 years.

    Although I harbor no ill feelings against any of these inept, oportunist, liliputiense, who were incapable of preserving the laboratory and its achievements they so badly wanted, it is heartbreaking to see this once proud institution of learning, abandoned, in shambles, covered by weed, while most of the perpetrators of this crime, have not answered for the unquantifiable harm they have done to our country and the world.

    Our country’s failure to erradicate these monsters when they first raised their dirty heads, was compounded by the authorities believing their lies, enabling them to metastasize widely and devouring the soul of our country. Had the authorities acted the way they should have 36 years ago, today, Esteban Morales and probably thousands of others, would not have succumbed to this rotten, malignant, highly transmissible human scourge, which have caused more harm to our country that its known enemies.

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