HAVANA TIMES, August 4 – Foreign journalists were not invited to the last session of the Cuban parliament, which is held every six months. In any case, there was no surprising news. No one had the slightest doubt that these representatives would approve the reform guidelines issued by the Communist Party.
Nor did the deputies show themselves to be overly inquiring with respect to the presentations by the government officials. On television we didn’t see anyone questioning the reports made by the various ministries, not even in those cases where there have been recurrent failures.
On the contrary, the delegates listened impassively to explanations about the objective and subjective causes for those failures and about how people are working earnestly to overcome those difficulties. However, while days, months and years pass by and ministers change, many of the problems remain, completely intact.
This is the situation, despite Vice-president Jose R. Machado’s words to the plenary session of the Central Committee saying, “Self-criticism will not be accepted when it is no more than pure justifications; nor will commitments be admitted when year after year goes by and these are not fulfilled.”
That’s why I was surprised by some of the reports presented to the deputies by the ministries. I’m particularly thinking about the report on Cuba’s agriculture, which has continued without showing any signs of improvement, despite it being a priority because of its economic as well as its national security implications.
The Farmers Know the Answers
When one hears the reports they might believe that it’s an excessively complicated task, but the fact is that it’s not so involved. Any campesino knows the problems they face in the field and how to solve them in order to produce more and better yields.
The first obstacle that all of them mention is the existence of the large and powerful bureaucracy that is inefficient in making decisions concerning small farmers – telling them what to plant, how to plant, on what land, how to market their produce and how much to charge for it.
A tobacco farmer told me not long ago that in Pinar del Rio Province they were ordered to centralize all the nurseries and that they were prohibited from having their own. Thanks to this top-down directive, a plague spread throughout the entire province with the greatest of ease.
It’s necessary to be optimistic that someday in one of these biannual meeting the deputies will raise their voices to question incompetent leaders. We have to have faith that they’ll query them and, if those functionaries deserve it, the representatives will request their dismissal – without waiting for such an action to be proposed by the president or the party.
Costly Incompetence in the Nickel Industry
A leader doesn’t have to be taken to prison for being incompetent, but nor is it necessary to suffer through years and years of errors to replace them. A good example of this is reflected in the costs and damage that such leniency brought about in the nickel industry here.
I find it difficult to believe that there are no people in the parliament from Moa who are connected to nickel production who could have confronted the minister about what was happening before things got to the sorry state point they did.
Similarly, it’s difficult to believe that the deputy from the Alta Habana area was unaware that an electric power station was built there but that was useless because of its negative effects on the households in the community. (Just in case, we’re publishing the photo of the facility before it rusts out and is taken over by the underbrush, thereby losing forever the millions that it cost to build.)
If ordinary Cubans have to work, save and sacrifice, it seems only fair that explanations about these white elephants are due to them. The deputies, who are the people’s representatives, are the ones who should demand that the ministers assess the damage and identify those responsible.
This would involve thoroughly analyzing each error and, as Vice-president Machado demanded, “explaining why what was necessary wasn’t done, who were the people responsible, what plan there is to correct the problem, what is the impact and in what period of time will the situation be solved.”
Instead of this, circulating on the Internet is resolution OM-863 from the Ministry of the Basic Industry (responsible for nickel and electricity production), which is an order to leaders in that sector informing them that “you will not be able to coordinate coverage with the national or foreign media (press) without previous authorization by the central office.”
But such an order shouldn’t affect the deputies. They are the direct representatives of the people and it is their duty is to protect the interests of their constituents. They are also the counterbalance to the executive office; in their hands should be the power to regulate and monitor the government’s efficiency.
Their role could be much more important in the immediate future when, as is being projected, the provinces and municipalities will acquire greater power. However, “Without changing the mentality, we won’t be able to undertake the necessary changes,” Raul Castro told the deputies.
The problem is that for the institutionalization of a nation, it’s not enough for the central government to surrender attributions. It is indispensable that the parliament, the municipalities, the unions, the courts and the rest of the social actors also battle to become independent and recover their true identity.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.