Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but… | Cartas Desde Cuba por Fernando Ravsberg
“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but…


Stevedores in the Port of Havana. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The Cuban economy would be on the increase if half of the Revolution’s guardian angels – those who dedicate themselves to monitoring what is written on every blog – spent their time chasing corrupt and incompetent officials who steal and destroy the wealth that other Cuban people generate.

This isn’t my idea but that of one of Cartas desde Cuba’s readers and it stems from the fact that the Comptroller General of Cuba reported that there were “losses” worth around 90 million pesos and 50 million USD, in some companies that had been inspected in Havana.

Los pagos de la deuda externa implican un enorme esfuerzo financiero pero no existe otra forma de integrarse en la economía mundial.

Making foreign debt repayments involve a great deal of effort but there isn’t any other way to become more involved in the global economy.

During the debate that then kicked off on the blog, many people asked why names of corrupt and incompetent officials weren’t made public or why we weren’t informed of the dismissal of company leaders or those sectors affected, just like the blog La Joven Cuba was “reported” in the press, for example.

Cuba can’t get rid of the blockade because that depends on the US Congress. However, a lot could be done to counteract State company “losses” in the millions, without which we will never reach the productivity needed in order to raise wages.

The country’s national economic situation is no joking matter. In 2016, over 5 billion USD were paid on the country’s foreign debt and, I imagine, that this year this expenditure will be similar. If the payments aren’t made there are few credits available and those which come, are loaded with huge interest rates.

As if that wasn’t enough, Venezuela has cut oil exports to Cuba, which the government pays for with medical services. Last year, only 55,000 barrels were delivered per day, around half of the amount that Cuba used to receive when things were going well, when they were able to use, refine and resell oil.

The situation needs to be changed urgently. In 2016, Cuba couldn’t pay some medium and short-term debts because they didn’t have liquid funds. The national economy needs to grow and in order for that to happen, foreign investment is vital; about 2.5 billion USD per year, according to Cuban economists.

However, these investments don’t come or, rather, they do appear but they get stuck in the marshy labyrinth of Cuban bureaucracy. And this is how foreign businessmen spend their days in Cuba, losing hope while they’re told perhaps, perhaps perhaps…

La población debería ser informada de las medidas que se toman contra los corruptos porque ese dinero que se “pierde” les pertenece a todos los cubanos.

“When they steal from the State they are stealing from you.”

Last year was very hard and this year looks like it will be too. However, it could be a lot less difficult if things were handled more decisively against incompetent and corrupt officials that squander Cuba’s scant resources and possibilities for development, as Vietnamese economic advisers suggested to government officials.

Or maybe these officials are being dealt with and what Cuban citizens are missing is transparency to explain why provincial leaders are being arrested for having kept money from grants meant for home building or those who sell official passports.

Lisandro Otero said that capitalism is so uncertain that the population never knows what will happen, while in socialism, they never find out what happened. Maybe if we were told a little more about some of these cases, people would think twice before putting their hands in the State treasury.

There are some people who oppose the idea that there should be greater transparency because that way it would be public which leader “messed up” and why. With such information we could save ourselves at least from letting some known corrupt official, from a new government post, give us lessons on revolutionary honor.

To nobody’s surprise, there are a group of “super-revolutionaries” who dedicate their lives to blocking this information from ever reaching the general population. They fight against blogs, websites and within the national media against all of those who try to practice better journalism.

Their enemies aren’t those who – from a ministry – take part in people trafficking scams, or those who put a halt to foreign investment. Likewise, they don’t report those who rob social security funds or State company managers who lose millions of dollars.

According to them, the greatest danger that the country faces today are… bloggers. That’s why they dedicate article after article to attack any non-governmental statement in the blogosphere. They seek to convince the Cuban people that wiping the bloggers out of cyberspace is a matter of life and death for the Revolution.

With the very real problems that the economy is suffering, with the most powerful country in the world’s blockade still present, with hundreds of thieves diverting resources and with incompetent bureaucracy hindering the reforms process, looking for imaginary enemies might seem stupid and it really is.

Los intentos de cerrar blogs personales solo pueden compararse con las quemas masivas de libros realizadas por los nazis.

Los intentos de cerrar blogs personales solo pueden compararse con las quemas masivas de libros realizadas por los nazis.

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


One thought on “Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but…

  1. “The more things change, the more they remain the same!” I can’t help but feeling this especially after leading a discussion recently on “Corbett’s Rural Rides” where, again and again William Cobbett (circa England of the 1820’s) rants against all the dead weight of those who leech off the productive forces of society (in this case, English agricultural workers, who had to support a host of non-productive folks). I can’t help but feeling that, in Cuba, this has much to do with the economy of scarcity. Such a condition, however, can never be overcome merely by adding ever more “watchdogs” to ferret out those who siphon off state resources, or who frustrate productive forces. They are, in fact, amongst the causes of such problems (for example, the two folks at a supermarket in Nautica who I observed watching two of their coworkers to make sure that those taking inventory would not appropriate some of the goodies they were counting. Meanwhile, there was only one cashier, with a line growing ever longer. Reward producers and retail workers for their efficiency, rather than adding layer-upon-layer of bureaucracy. Another example, at a faux Wal-Mart on Galiano, where, after purchasing a apartment sized washing machine for a friend, I had to go up-and-down, to-and-fro, getting invoices stamped in triplicate and signatures signed in duplicate! This was some sort of dysfunctional nightmare.

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