Cuba, Endorsements and the Caste System

Ernesto Perez Chang

The blessing. Photo: Juan Suarez

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.

The city in the background. Photo: Juan Suarez

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.

13 thoughts on “Cuba, Endorsements and the Caste System

  • March 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Racism is rampant in Canada…..period.

  • March 15, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Moses, I didn’t say that it doesn’t exist…I only pointed out that I’m doing my part to try to offset it by treating everyone as an individual first, regardless of what they look like. Racial profiling is not part of my vocabulary. So I’m not burying my head in the sand…to the contrary, I’m always promoting tolerance and equality in the face of prejudice. Racial prejudice does exist in Canada…but to a vastly lesser degree than it does in America…the comparison isn’t even close. I have a black family living beside me, an east indian family behind me, as well as two doors over, and two oriental families kitty-corner to my home too. I don’t look at them or treat them any differently than anyone else…they’re Canadians. They don’t treat me any differently either. By and large, that level of tolerance and acceptance is something that both the Canadian and Cuban cultures both share. My advice to you is to lose that chip on your shoulder…because when you carry around that kind of animosity, the bigots win. You’re better than that.

  • March 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Sounds nice. But as a black man, my experience with racism, even in Canada has been mixed at best. The problem people like you and John Lennon have is that you don’t have to live in the real world where the skinhead Canadians and Americans alike terrorize and threaten anyone who doesn’t look like them. Lucky for you that you don’t have to deal with that crap. So if what you think I am feeling is resentment then understand it is an honest and normal reaction to my life experiences and when people like you bury your heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist where you live, then you only make it easier for the racist near you to do their evil.

  • March 14, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I see that ‘color’ and race is much more of a problem for you personally. But then, you live in America, and that’s always been a problem for many living there. I don’t live in America. I live in a country that supports equal opportunity for all, tolerance, and a sincere appreciation for a diverse and culturally mixed society. I was raised (as were many in my country) to treat everyone as an individual, instead of harboring preconceived stereo-types. My opinions of people, by and large, have always been based on individuality. My response to individuals, regardless of color or ethenicity, has always been determined by how they respond to me as an individual. Therefore, I’ve always been color blind. I would have no problem with my daughter dating a black man, a cubano, asian, whatever…he could be purple for all I care. As long as he’s a good man…and I can only know that with certainty by interacting with him in an unbiased and supportive fashion. In that mind-set, I know I’m not the only one…coming full circle back to Lennon’s lyrics. And the mind-set of most Cubans mirrors that of those in my country…this is something very deep that our two country’s share. But Moses, I sincerely feel for you regarding the situation in your country, and the resentment that I feel you harbor because of it.

  • March 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    My point is that you seem genuine in your hope for a better life for Cubans in Cuba. But I wonder how your perspective would change if your neighborhood suddenly became home to two or three black Cuban families? Would your neighborhood watch schedule suddenly be reactivated? How long would it take before all that liberal blather would be replaced by murmurings as to why did ‘those people’ move to “our” neighborhood? Probably just after one of the teenage Cuban boys began dating one of your neighbors daughters I suspect. Do you see my point yet?

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