Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — After demonizing foreign investment for many years, the Cuban government opened its doors to it with an enthusiasm worthy of better causes.
Not that the financial resources available worldwide are necessarily a negative force, but the indiscriminate embrace of international capitalism has been one of the most powerful forces pushing towards the restoration of “normal” capitalism here in recent years.
The Observatorio Critico collective has not ceased to report on the opacity and authoritarianism that has characterized this process, and about its social, economic and political consequences.
I recall a tit-for-tat we had some years back with a pro-government journalist, who criticized us for this. At the time, I was concerned about our government’s contacts with Brazil’s corporate giant Odebrecht. This transnational conglomerate, we should remember, has secured management rights over Cuba’s 5 de septiembre sugar refinery, broad facilities in the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone and who knows how many more properties and investments. For the journalist, there was nothing wrong with this, as Brazilians were “different sorts” of capitalists: good people who were coming over to lend us a helping hand, in contrast to other, “bad” capitalists that went around the world in search of anything they could make a killing on.
Well, a few days ago, Odebrecht made headlines as yet another corruption scandal, of the sort that have been making a splash in Brazil of late. Our press has been very discrete with respect to how Dilma Rousseff’s government and her neo-liberal policy have become discredited and about the accusations and protests that have surrounded her party and government. Consequently, it hasn’t said a word about the arrest of the conglomerate’s president, Marcelo Odebrecht.
In an article published by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada on June 19, I came across some details. Odebrecht, which employs around 200,000 people and has operations in 21 countries, had been in the sights of Brazil’s Comptroller General for some time for allegedly being part of a construction company cartel implicated in different acts of corruption, bribery, overbilling and others. In Brazil, the newspaper underscores, the rich are considered to be above the law, so the imprisonment Marcelo Odebrecht has been quite a story.
Curiously, a few days before, the web-site Cubacontemporanea published a cheerful article celebrating the work of this corporation in different sectors in Cuba.
These facts confirm our misgivings for the umpteenth time. Our government rubs elbows with corporate capitalists, the true sharks of the modern world, behind the backs of working Cubans. Cuba’s working class has no say in these negotiations, where veritable and massive transactions in sovereignty, material and human resources are made with transnational capital. Our bureaucracy gets along well with foreign magnates, and corruption finds plenty of space to settle in.
In the end, the workers are the ones who suffer the consequences. There, in Brazil, it is perhaps the impoverished residents of a favela who suffer Odebrecht’s exploitation; here, it may be those who live in a poor tenement and endure extortion by a local, blood-sucking intermediary that has been absorbed by the foreign company. The feeling of alienation with respect to the production process and the country’s wealth is reinforced and the conception of individualism and personal profit as signs of prosperity is encouraged.
While the vices of those foreign capitalists end up blowing up in their faces publicly over there, after those around them decide that they can’t simply get away with everything, here, a cloak of merciful silence solves the whole problem. We can’t have nosey people prying and looking into who made the deals with them here and how they were treated, how they actually decided what they could offer – could they have obtained some kind of “gift”? Heaven knows – or perhaps Marcelo Odebrecht.