Fernando Ravsberg*

Cubans say that, when the country’s leaders are dismissed for incompetence, they tend to “fall to the top.” (Photo: Raquel Perez)
Cubans say that, when the country’s leaders are dismissed for incompetence, they tend to “fall to new heights.” (Photo: Raquel Perez)

HAVANA TIMES — Since my arrival in Cuba, I’ve been hearing people say that their leaders, after being dismissed for incompetence and the like, tend to fall, not from grace, but “to new heights”.

It doesn’t matter how useless a “cadre” turns out to be, there will always be another management position open to them.

This practice is so widespread that the woman now leading Cuba’s fight against corruption, Comptroller General of the Republic Gladys Bejerano, complained because, every so often, she will run into an official who was dismissed for incompetence at a management position in a different company.

With such “recycling” policies in place, it comes as no surprise that 75% of all audited workplaces on the island get a bad review. The Comptroller’s Office exposed 12 cases of criminal activity and 7 incidents of corruption, but imposed sanctions on 582 managers for not doing their jobs properly. It seems that the inept far outnumber the corrupt.

These individuals manage to survive thanks to the complicity of the “top leaders of political and grassroots organizations attached to their companies, who, on occasion, are in connivance with the management of these workplaces,” a reader of Granma newspaper explains in one of the periodical’s Letters to the Editor.

This is why “many people opt not to get into trouble and to wait for things to collapse under their own weight.” Confronting an inept manager entails antagonizing the company management, the Party representatives and the union leadership at the workplace.

The reader adds that “cadre policy” is being violated “at several entities”, which hire inept managers because of “double standards, camaraderie and string-pulling.” That is what common Cubans are talking about when they mockingly refer to the country’s system as “sociolismo” (in Cuban slang, “socio” means buddy. A rough translation would be: “buddy-ism”).

Some of these issues were already addressed in a previous post, published a mere two weeks ago. At many workplaces, the management, Party, Young Communists League (UJC) and unions act as a single authority, to the point that they go by a single, generic name: “the administration.”

A veteran communist explained to me that the original idea was to have each of these different bodies monitor and check one another. What actually happens, though, is that these officials act as clan, protecting one another from employee complaints and State inspections.

Cuba’s Comptroller General of the Republic has complained that officials dismissed for incompetence reappear in other management positions. (Photo: Raquel Perez)
Cuba’s Comptroller General of the Republic has complained that officials dismissed for incompetence reappear in other management positions. (Photo: Raquel Perez)

Some years ago, a worker at a fish-packing plant told me he had a few days of intense work ahead of him, that he had to scramble to “put everything in order”, because a “surprise audit” by the Ministry of Fisheries was about to be conducted. He explained to me that all members of “the administration” were helping touch up the place.

Of course, with such an inspection method in place, the economy was doing very well – State companies passed all tests, no corrupt managers or inept bosses were ever detected and all production plans were being fulfilled ahead of schedule, even though the country was producing less and less.

When real inspections began to be conducted, the general manager of fish-packing company ended up in jail. The question is: why did he enjoy the support of the Party, UJC and union leadership for so many years?

Many were likely unaware this individual was stealing from the company, but everyone doubtless knew the company wasn’t doing well. Despite this, they continued to pressure workers so that they would express their criticisms “through the appropriate channels”, that is to say, through “the administration.”

This is the way in which information is controlled in a number of State companies, which is why bureaucrats are so afraid of the press. Cuban journalists, however, are beginning to poke holes in the veil of secrecy that covers up so many inept and corrupt individuals.

Curiously, despite the many let downs, when a “cadre” is thought to be politically trustworthy and entrusted with a management position, it would seem he’s acquired a lifetime position that entitles him to undertake any type of activity.

Both the government and general population concur that improving the economy is the country’s top priority. Thus, the “political trustworthiness” of a cadre should no longer be measured by what he says but by his actual professionalism, honesty and leadership skills.

Schools for government cadres can be useful in terms of improving the skills of those who have already demonstrated an aptitude for the positions they’ve been assigned. As for the rest, they should be allowed to fall to the bottom, for recycling inept people only produces a fresh batch of inept people – and they’re a bit more clever the second time around.
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(*) An authorized HT translation of the original  published by BBC Mundo.

4 thoughts on “Harmful Recycling: On Cuba’s Inept Officials

  • You are wrong to suggest that being anti-socialist means being “anti-social tendencies; selfishness, negativity toward any social improvement, rejection of any progressive effort, etc.”. I believe that I am an anti-socialist and I possess none of these traits. The truth is that I am not sure what real socialism is. If it what exists in Cuba, I want no parts of it. If it is what Sweden and Denmark have, I am open to consider it.

  • People who are personally anti-socialist, are often revealed in their many anti-social tendencies; selfishness, negativity toward any social improvement, rejection of any progressive effort, etc. And in the case of Cuba, this comes out as constant criticism with no concrete helpful suggestions.

    This article is negative, but I notice that it does have some helpful information. It admits that there have been some recent efforts to improve bureaucratic functioning in Cuba. It seems to be suggesting that the “Comptroller General of the Republic Gladys Bejerano [caused] real inspections [to] began to be conducted.” and reports that “Cuban journalists…are beginning to poke holes in the veil of secrecy that covers up so many inept and corrupt individuals.” If so, these are positive and hopeful signs and should be applauded. After all, a better social or socialist system can benefit the majority.

    Remember, it is the anti-social forces, that want Cuba to fail and have been doing everything they could think of to make that happen. Here in the U.S., the majority of our citizens have long been divided against one another and even their own best interests by the various techniques of the powerful. Need proof, just examine why so many Americans have feared what they were taught was “socialized medicine” like they have in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, England, Denmark, etc… all with far better services at half the cost. But finally Americans are learning. “Obama-care” which is still an insurance company dominated system, is a bit more “social” but is still supposedly scaring half of America. We will see.

    That of course has always been the reason for the U.S. government and powerful hatred of the Cuban revolution. What if Cuba succeeded? That would show we and the rest of the America’s don’t need to live under a Mafia like lottery system that has controlled the US for so long.

  • The brand new bartender earns 450 pesos a month as you state and I agree with no experience. He is also trying to augment his salary any way he can because he can not survive on the minimal salary. But you say the manager has 25 years experience and often that is not the case, he possibly has very little experience in the restaurant business but has been placed in a position of authority by his connections. Just look at how many establishments are managed and it is obvious that the managers have no real idea how to properly run in any sort of a business.

  • Salaries, salaries, salaries. The monthly salary of a brand new bartender, fresh out of the ‘escuela gastronomia’ at Las Vegas Cabaret in Havana is about 450 Cuban pesos or roughly $18 usd. The manager who runs the entire group of cabaret-style bar/restaurants in Havana earns 600 pesos, or a difference of only about $6 usd. This manager has more than 25 years more experience! Needless to say, this manager will seek to augment his state pay by whatever means necessary.

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