Ernesto Perez Chang
HAVANA TIMES — Finding a good job in Cuba is no easy task. On many occasions, having been “vouched for” (that is to say, recommended) by an important person, a member of the Communist Party (the “vanguard” of Cuban society, as the government describes it) is far more important than being able to demonstrate one is qualified for a certain type of work or position.
This type of selection process has consolidated a kind of caste system over the years. The process, designed to encourage mediocrity, has undermined all of the country’s structures. It has allowed people devoid of talent and knowledge to end up in the higher echelons of society and to wield power over those who, having real talent, did not make it into the club of the chosen few – that is to say, those who were never “vouched for.”
Many of the demented policies that have bled out the economy, that have turned Cuba into an unburied corpse, were put into practice because of the headstrong philosophy and whims of those who were entrusted leadership duties, because such people were selected on the basis of their political loyalty and not their ability to confront problems intelligently and on the basis of consensus-building.
Knowing that an intransigent posture will guarantee the preservation of their status and privileges, they stand in the way of any initiative that could damage their reliability in the eyes of the government, which seeks to keep the country afloat without shaking up those mechanisms that ensure decision-making prerogatives remain in the hands of a caste whose reproduction is encouraged by the system itself.
It is no accident all important positions in the more profitable companies have been assigned to high-ranking military officers, by the relatives of people who wield political power and by so called “leadership cadres”, trained in special schools where the main course isn’t the development of decision-making skills but ideological indoctrination of the most twisted kind.
This is truly nonsensical in a country where most citizens care little whether the economic model that is to prevail is socialism, feudalism or a throwback to the Stone Age, because they are simply concerned with making ends meet, earning money and living decorously, tired as they are of useless sacrifices.
When we apply for a well-paid State job or a scholarship in certain schools, we need an endorsement that certifies we are politically trustworthy.
If the person has no important friends or relatives, the chances of being accepted or admitted plummet and the path becomes increasingly winding, almost infernal.
If you manage to avoid the system’s pitfalls, you will confirm how much easier things are for those who, as we Cubans say, “have a godfather and get baptized.” It doesn’t matter how stupid the person vouched for is. The endorsement and some acting skills will get them a helicopter (and emergency parachute) for the steep climb.
The poor person without friends in high places will always end up the assistant or advisor, an indispensable employee who will never be allowed to reach the top. That said, if something goes wrong during the ascent of the protégé, his or her head will be sliced off by the blades of the helicopter that spins out of control.
Recently, I went into a hard-currency store. In order to get an answer to a complaint, I asked to speak with the manager. To my huge surprise, the manager of the store was a former military officer who had been my superior during military service. A former lieutenant colonel, he had been sanctioned in a serious corruption case. Nearly twenty years had gone by, and now this man was the one answering customer complaints and, in the meantime, vouching for the honesty of the establishment.
What was this corrupt officer doing there, taking in hard currency for his pocket, sorry, I meant for the State? The endorsement is the answer, as is belonging to the caste system that provides shelter for the mediocre and dishonest. Make no mistake: in time, these same chosen ones will spawn a blood-thirsty and unstoppable monster that will devour us all, the chosen ones and simple mortals, with one bite.