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.
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.
(*) An authorized HT translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.