The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling Favours /
Iván García, 26 MAY 2017 — Ideology is no longer the most important
consideration if you want to get an administrative position in Cuba’s
chaotic business and commercial network. They only ask you to do two
things: fake support for the autocracy and show loyalty to government
If you have both these qualities, they will remove any common offences
from your work record. Nor is it a problem if you frequently beat your
wife or drink more rum than you should.
Human qualities are no longer a priority if you want to have a job in a
company management team or join the ranks of the Communist Party.
Let’s call him Armando. He has always worked in internal trade. “It’s
all been run down. Starting with the beginning of the Revolution. In the
food and internal trade sector, the biggest wastes of space have
occupied key positions. The employment culture is asphyxiating, like
being in a prison. Money, extortion, nepotism and witchcraft are more
important that professional qualifications and personal qualities”.
After letting his life go down the drain, what with getting into
trouble, involving knives, robberies, public disorder, Armando decided
to get himself back on track when his son was born. “I spent most of my
youth and adolescence in the clink. With a family to support, I have to
look at things differently. I have no family in the States who could get
me out of here. I had to learn how to play the system. With the help of
a friend, after paying him 300 chavitos (CUC), I got a bodega [ration
store] for my wife and managed to include myself in the staff as an
assistant to the storekeeper”.
After a year and a half, his wife started the process of joining the
party. “She knows nothing about politics, but in Cuba having a red card
opens doors for you. My next goal is to ’buy’ a bodega just for me.”
According to Armando, for 400 CUC you can get a bodega with lots of
customers. “The more people buy things in your store, the more options
you have to make money. In six months or a year, depending on your
contacts with truck drivers and people running warehouses, you can
recoup your investment”.
Although the neighbourhood bodegas have seen a reduction in the
distribution of goods being issued through the ration books, various
storekeepers have said that, in spite of that, they are still making money.
“It’s not like thirty years ago, when we had 25 different products
delivered to the bodegas. You don’t get rich, but you can support your
family. You can do two things: cheat on weighing, and buy foreign made
things and sell them on to owners of private businesses or direct to
customers”, admits a storekeeper with forty years’ experience.
If there is a robbery in a state-owned food centre or bodega, the boss
or storekeeper has to meet the loss. “A little while ago, they stole
several boxes of cigars and bags of coffee. I didn’t even report it. I
paid about 4 thousand pesos for the loss and coughed up nearly another
200 CUC have new bars fitted and improvements to the security of the
premises”, said a storekeeper
An official dealing with these things emphasises that, “When a robbery
occurs, the first suspect is the storekeeper. It’s an unwritten law of
business. If you get robbed, you should pay up and shut up, because
police investigations usually uncover more serious problems”.
Naturally, in high-turnover food stores and markets you pay weekly
bribes to the municipal managers. The manager of a state pizzeria
explains: “The amounts vary with sales level. The more you sell, the
more you have to send upstairs. At weekends I send an envelope with
1,500 Cuban pesos and 40 CUC to the municipal director, as I sell in
This hidden support network, of mafia-like construction, at the same
time as it offers excellent profit on the back of State merchandise,
also generates a de facto commitment to the government.
“It’s what happens in any important government activity. Whether it’s
tourism, commerce, or import-export. The money comes from embezzlement,
irregular financial dealings and corrupt practices. One way or another,
the present system feeds us. It all comes together, as a kind of
marriage of convenience. I let you do your thing, as long as you let me
do mine”, is a sociologist’s opinion.
Raúl Castro has tried to sort things out, and designated Gladys Bejerano
as Controller General of the Republic. “Successes have been partial.
They get rid of one focus of corruption but leave others or change the
way they work. If you were to arrange a thorough clean up of the network
of government-run businesses, the system would break down. Because, like
the bloodsuckers, they feed off other peoples’ blood”, explains an
ex-director of food services.
Essentially, what is left of socialism in Cuba is a pact. In its attempt
to survive, Castroism violates Marxist principles and, in place of
loyalty, accepts that Catholics, Santeria priests and masons can enter
the Communist Party.
In the business sector there is a different idea. Embezzlement in return
for applause. In that way, not much is being stolen – kind of.
Translated by GH
Source: The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling
Favours / Iván García – Translating Cuba –