Cuba’s High-Flying Corruption

Fernando Ravsberg

Photo: Ihosvanny

HAVANA TIMES, June 16 – The trials of corrupt figures in Cuba are monopolizing the attention of many people.  Some are trying to use these to convince us that the revolution is hopelessly rotten, while others have just now discovered that it’s the system is not immune to mundane sins.

It’s clear that this is an international phenomenon having neither national nor political color.  What’s curious is that the situations in other countries often make corruption on the island seem like child’s play.

I’m thinking about the political, military and corporate connections with drug syndicates in Mexico and Colombia, though without overlooking the first world’s multi-billion dollar swindles by companies in the United States or horrifying real estate schemes in Europe.

In fact, one of the demands of the “indignant” Spanish youths is that politicians convicted for corruption cannot run in subsequent elections, as did several in recent political contests.

Corruption is nothing new in Cuba.  In fact, what’s happening now is that it’s becoming more common to see embezzlers sitting behind defense tables, including those who once held important government and business positions.

This is a staggering blow for those who believed in a chaste revolution, one able to conceive without sinning.  Now, to the contrary, they can confirm that this has involved a revolutionary process exposed to the same virus that makes the rest of humanity sick.

Some of my colleagues are complaining that the scalpel isn’t cutting everything as deep as it should, but for me what’s particularly interesting is that the government has in fact decided to apply surgical techniques to the problem, and they’re doing it publically.

It seems that corrupt politicians will no longer be dealt with as “miscalculating comrades” who always deserve a second chance.  Now such individuals are running the risk of being tried and convicted as common criminals.

However not all Cubans agree.  Many consider the sentences much too lenient.  “They’ll give you more years in jail for killing a cow than what they gave those people who murdered dozens of psychiatric patients,” one of my neighbors commented.

In any case, it’s healthy that corrupt doctors are being tried, as are government ministers who became rich speculating with people’s food and those who have milked public corporations like Cubana de Aviacion.

An acquaintance who clandestinely sells ice cream told me that the police came to his house asking for the names of those who sell that product to him.   “We’re not interested in you, but the ones who steal whole truckloads from the factory,” the officers explained to him.

The problem is that struggle against corruption will be a pyrrhic victory if the attack doesn’t include those at the top.  They can fill the jails with street re-sellers but the evil will be reproduced if the kingpins who divert public resources onto the black market aren’t put behind bars.

Much information is still lacking about the crimes committed and their economic, social and human implications.  It continues to remain unclear how people were able to embezzle millions of dollars from the treasury without anyone noticing.

In a country where it’s said that all the means of production belong to people, they should be entitled to know how much money was stolen from them, how this was done and what measures the government will take so that this isn’t repeated.

In the streets of Cuba there are billboards showing the calculations for how many daycare centers could be built if the US embargo didn’t exist.  They should put up other signs explaining what they would have been able to do with the funds stolen by this or that bureaucrat.

Corrupt politicians and businesspeople are not simple hustlers who know how to savor life better than the rest of us.  In fact, under both socialism and capitalism they’re no more than pickpockets who make their fortunes lifting our very own wallets.

There are those who assure that “all those involved” still haven’t been taken to court.  I don’t doubt that but I’ll bet that the trials will continue and that other leaders will be lined before judges.

Comptroller Gladys Bejerano is enlisting her “troops” to expand the offensive.  The feared “Anti-corruption Lady” promised that in addition to pursuing illegalities, she would monitor administrative honesty and the efficient use of public funds.

The fact that the convictions are being covered in the press along with the reporting of the names of the criminals is having a preventive effect.  This is a warning that certain crimes will no longer be dealt with by sending people home to cool their heels in their pajama; instead, they’re going to be carted off to jail in full prison uniforms.

Emptying prisons of political opponents who imply no real threat to the government and filling those facilities with corrupt bureaucrats who have been eating away at the nation from the inside seems the most sensible strategy for those attempting to save the system.


An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.

2 thoughts on “Cuba’s High-Flying Corruption

  • One former Minister was repeatly telling he is protecting me… well i never needed protection because i have done nothing wrong but he is in jail for 15 years now, trial ended 3 weeks ago. 10% of the companies working force hired by him was kicked out, he was able to raise a big corruption within a Minbas enterprise within only 3 years after he was fired as transport minister, ignoring his superiors at UNE and talking only with Yadira. Pissing on all people he thought they were below him, made repressive measures on the companies best engineers, because they knew much more and let him look as he was, stupid. Well they cleaned up his mess carefully last year, leaving the company 6 months without direction and leadership. If politicians who know nothing about the real work of an enterprise stay out of them it will work better.

    But honestly this stupid idiot didn´t stole a lot, some cement, some food, cars, and gasoline, but what he didn´t do, his job, let the country lose millions. It is time to shoot those oppurtunists which came by talking loud how wonderful socialism and Cuba is, and just thinking how to gain money. Better surveillance as long as there is no worker controlled socialism in the state companies in necessary. In anyway, the Cuban thieves hardly can´t be compared with the bankers destroying the world and running around free.

  • It’s surprising, Fernando, that you see the solution to the problem of corruption in Cuba as being through prosecution and incarceration. This flows from the same sort of logic of the US government’s “War on Drugs.”

    If you’re in a row-boat in the middle of the ocean, and a hole in the bottom of the boat is gushing water, what is the solution? Is it to pass a law against gushing water and also bail faster and faster? Why not first plug the hole?

    Similarly, what is needed in Cuba is not stricter laws and more aggressive prosecutions of corrupt bureaucrats. The hole has to be plugged. It will not do any good to put a few or many bureaucrats in jail without changing the system that produces these corrupt bureaucrats and corrupt bureau workers in the first place.

    Just as the US needs to discard its moralistic legal prohibition-of-drugs system, and destroy thereby the underground drug trade, Cuba needs to discard its moralistic legal system of mis-appreciating private productive property rights and the trading market.

    Cuba needs to plug the hole in the boat by ensuring primary ownership of the instruments of production by those who do the work: small entrepreneurs and cooperative industrial and commercial workers on the Mondragon model. This would destroy corruption in the land of Marti and be a beacon unto the world.

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