Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

Waiting for help
Waiting for help

Institutional Crisis
FERNANDO DAMASO, La Habana | Enero 23, 2015

Among so many crises that affect us, little is said about that related
to institutions. In the Republican era, there existed institutions that,
without being perfect, worked. If it had not been so, the country would
not have developed in the way that it did. When the new regime was put
in place in 1959, instead of being perfected, most of the existing
institutions were liquidated or their spheres of influence were reduced
for the purpose of initiating other new ones on bare ground. Even the
family, considered a principal and primary institution, did not escape,
being dismembered and atomized to respond to political and ideological

An institution can be many things. There exist formal and informal
institutions and, in both cases, they are always social constructions.
They must be efficient, that is to say, capable of functioning well,
having legitimacy, being able to adapt to changes in the environment and
anticipate changes besides demonstrating stability. These components
must act together if they want to get results. In the Cuban case,
stability has turned into a kind of brake that impedes the necessary
changes, giving rise to ossified institutions. The majority of
institutions established in the last fifty years suffer this infirmity,
mainly the economic, legal and political ones.

The companies nationalized or seized – financial, production, trade and
others – that had functioned independently in accord with the policies
of their owners, were subordinated to already existing institutions or
ones created for that purpose that had never performed these functions
of management and administration, instituting a rigid vertical system
that totally eliminated their independence and chances of reacting to
changing situations; everything was decided centrally, and they were
reduced to mere implementers of orders. Economic institutions not only
have been incapable of developing the country but have destroyed what
was achieved during the preceding years thanks to the talent and effort
of several generations of Cubans.

Legal power stopped being independent and, like the legislative, was
subordinated to the executive, represented by a single authority.
Judicial institutions respond only to the interests of the State, to the
detriment of the citizens without there existing true rule of law.

In the provincial and municipal governments changes were introduced,
stripping them of their names and functions, also creating a vertical
system that left them financially destitute for having to deliver most
of their income to the central authority which later would dole out
resources for their needs. These changes reduced the chance of solving
local problems, since they no longer had the resources that their own
commercial and productive activities previously generated.

In the case of political institutions, the example of the National
Assembly of Popular Power is depressing. Being the only constituent
entity existing in Cuba, which also is the only legislative body and
which retains the important authority to declare the unconstitutionality
of laws, decrees, ordinances and other regulations, it has never
exercised this authority in its 38 years of existence as the supreme
agency of the State. Can anyone believe that everything legislated by
the State has been just and correct?

Other negative aspects of its functioning are that almost all the votes
in its legislative history have been unanimous and that the deputies
have not exercised their right to present legislative proposals as
individual members of the Assembly. As if that were not enough, the
legal decrees of the State Council and the decrees by the Council of
Ministers triple the laws by the National Assembly.

The main problem that affects all Cuban institutions – whether
political, economic, legal, cultural, educational, military, medical,
athletic or others – is their unconditional submission to a sole
political-ideological approach, putting these interests ahead of those
that relate to their reason for existing. The only exceptions perhaps
are some religious institutions.

Until now the topic of institutions has been treated superficially, more
with regards to their form than their content. Life demonstrates that
some institutions must disappear, others must be changed, some new ones
should be created and a few others can continue functioning. If this
does not happen, the economic changes implemented so far and others that
should come, as much economic as political and social, will lack the
effectiveness, legitimacy, adaptability and stability necessary for
producing beneficial results for all Cubans. It is not logical to hope
that all this will be achieved with the existing historical leaders, but
they could, at least, start.

Translated by MLK

Source: Institutional Crisis –

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