HAVANA TIMES — An old proverb in Spanish says that to err is human and that only the wise learn from their mistakes. Others insist that showing one’s face, assuming the burden of responsibility and offering apologies are distinctively honest actions – the kind of honesty that ought to be a requirement for anyone who holds public office.
In the course of recent weeks, Cuba has experienced a number of situations in which government officials made mistakes and later rectified them but tried to avoid asking for apologies. These officials blame others for what happened or mend their ways without even mentioning the mistake they made.
The Cuban government pulled Labiofam’s ears for launching two colognes that bore the names of legendary Argentinian guerrilla leader Ernesto Che Guevara and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The company’s management quickly issued a communiqué begrudgingly accepting the blame and trying to accuse a foreign journalist of stirring up a “media spectacle” around the two fragrances that they themselves publicly presented.
A Cuban journalist, Omar George, replied that “the spectacle started well before, when, during a congress, to which the international press had access, incidentally, the company launched a marketing strategy whose aim could not have been other than placing the two products on the market.”
Labiofam executives tried to politicize the whole affair, portraying themselves as the victims of “the petty interests of the press (foreign) that lies and attacks them.” These statements, however, were refuted on the very web-page of the Association of Cuban Journalists (UPEC).
Wouldn’t it have been more dignified, and simpler, to assume full responsibility for the mistake, and to ask for apologies from the Guevara and Chavez families and the many Cubans who questioned the marketing of political icons by the company?
Labiofam is a successful Cuban laboratory that exports goods and services to many countries around the world. Making mistakes is one of the many things it must deal with – it is no sin. Attempting a political maneuver to lay the blame on someone else, however, is.
Something similar happened with Terminal 3 of the Jose Marti International Airport, where airport management had forbidden accompanying persons from entering the facilities, arguing that this was demanded by international norms.
The measure prompted protests from Cuban intellectuals, artists, academics and bloggers. Cyberspace was saturated with questioning, because nearly no one was convinced by the explanations that the authorities gave everyone through the media.
Now, as though nothing had happened, an airport executive announces in Juventud Rebelde, another official newspaper, that “the waiting areas have been reopened to those who accompany passengers at Terminal 3 of the Jose Marti International Airport.”
Caridad Miranda, a reader of the newspaper, recalls that another high official had previously assured users that the prohibition “was based on international norms that require a certain number of square meters per passenger to guarantee that check-in operations are carried out correctly.”
She adds that “now, they give us this information – which I am very happy to read – as though no one had heard what they said before. If the measure had to be rectified, the most decent thing to do is to say so, to publicly take responsibility for the mistake and not to take the public as fools.”
Alberto, another reader, comments that “it is a question of basic respect. If they ultimately had to rectify their mistake, they should say so publicly. There’s no shame in it. It actually speaks highly of those who address the opinion of the people they claim to serve, as does asking for apologies, if needed.”
Listening to the public and fixing mistakes has never been a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a needed democratic exercise that all State officials should be trained in – for, far from taking power away from them, it adds prestige to their institutions.