The Plague That Has Cuba On Edge

Fernando Ravsberg

The bureaucracy is the worst plague confronting Cuban society. Photo: Raquel Pérez

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 15 — If Cuba doesn’t have today a better connection to the Internet, it’s not because of the “blockade by the Americans” or because “the communists limit freedom of information.”  The true reason lies with a much more powerful enemy: A corrupt bureaucratic class.

They are the ones who bought cheap materials and “kept the change,” a good deal for them but one that resulted in poor quality and left the new fiber optic cable link with Venezuela inoperative, as is murmured in the corridors of the Ministry of Communications.

They tell me that the problem occurred because of sending politically reliable functionaries to make the purchases.  “If the decisions had been made by us specialists, we would have known up to what point we could have ‘saved’ without putting the whole project at risk,” said one engineer.

Several individuals have been arrested and interrogated, including vice ministers, yet inexplicably one of them “escaped.”  They sent him abroad in the middle of the investigation and, as could be expected, he didn’t return.

“Bureaucracy” is a monster born of an excessively centralized and vertical system.  It is organized in such a way that its members always do what “those on top” say, without anyone ever daring to question the orders of the “boss.”

Some intellectuals still believe that bureaucracy is only “an obtuse mentality of those who don’t want to see reality, something of opportunists, of the comfortable” and in the government they doubt that any bureaucratic resistance could be “conscious or unconscious.”

However, the level of offenses and sabotage committed against the recent reforms reveals a very ambitious class, one conscious of its economic interests, one that occupies key positions with real power but which lacks the most minimal ethics when seeking money.

Cuban politicians seem to underestimate the force and decision of the bureaucrats.  First they believed they wouldn’t dare confront the old guard “historicals,” and now they think they can break their resistance simply with legal actions.

The president is promising to put them all on trial “no matter who they might be, because all Cubans, without exception, we are equal before the law” – a phrase that sounds more like a warning to the members of this managerial class and their relatives.

Meanwhile, as the general public remains in the margin, blogger Yasmin Silva says, “The president’s speeches talk about combat in his (our) hidden war with the bureaucracy. But I don’t know where it’s being fought or who’s winning.”

From the pages Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, journalist Felix Lopez asks to include the “workers” in this combat, adding that he doesn’t understand why the managers of unproductive companies are maintained in their positions.

No one has the answer, though nothing in Cuba produces greater human, economic and social losses than those multi-million-dollar thefts by this group of officials who have no limits to their thirst for obtaining money.

Now appearing in the courts are traffickers of cigars, nickel and medicine, as well as officials of the national airline, a minister who got rich stealing the food of his compatriots, and doctors who starved mentally ill patients and allowed them to freeze to death.

For the government this also has a towering political cost because the public identifies these officials with the revolution, something quite logical keeping in mind their positions, their communist party affiliation and the tenor of their discourse (generally ultra-left).

A friend of mine, a real anti-Castro guy, is happy that socialism has created its own gravedigger.  He’s content that this class threatens to destroy the revolution, which would make possible the subsequent restoration of a market economy in Cuba.

But he hasn’t thought about what type of capitalism there would be with a political and managerial class born from this bureaucracy, people accustomed to stealing from the government and stepping over laws without showing the slightest compassion for their countrymen.

This is something that also should be considered in Washington so as to prevent another chaotic border.  In politics, like in chess, it’s not enough to determine the immediate move; it’s indispensable to calculate its consequences as well.

If this group of criminals comes to power in Cuba, it’s very likely that they will end up causing many more real problems for the United States than those posed by the communist leaders who govern the island today.

Beyond the political speeches, what’s certain is that currently those in the White House are sleeping peacefully with Cuba in terms of matters as important for its security as terrorism, drug trafficking or human trafficking.

In fact, one government allied to Washington already seems to understand the future risks.  It is advising the staff of Gladys Bejerano, Cuba’s general comptroller, in her struggle against white collar corruption.

If there’s something that the revolutionaries, anti-Castro elements and the United States could agree on, it’s the danger represented by the existence of a criminal bureaucracy that seeks to play a leading role in the country, whatever the political system might be.

It seems neither ethical nor intelligent to ally with these guayabera-wearing robbers because, beyond the political ideas of each individual, all Cubans should be interested in trying to prevent corruption from extending across the entire island.

At the end of 2005, Fidel Castro warned that the revolution could only be defeated from within.  But what’s certain is that he didn’t go far enough.  The bureaucracy not only threatens socialism, the reality is that it presents a danger to the entire Cuban nation.


One thought on “The Plague That Has Cuba On Edge

  • Corruption knows no borders ….all economic and political systems have so much corruption. It always seems to affect the average people the most. Greedy people, whether they are the bureaucrats within the Cuban government, or the bureaucrats within any government (or business) anywhere in the world—including the U.S., will always think they can get by stealing from others and not be caught. Sometimes, the governments even facilitate such people through relaxation of laws (like in the U.S. banking industry during the G.W. Bush years.) Everybody is hurt….the entire nation is hurt when such things occur.

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