Saturday, July 3, 2010

56. Corruption and the Danger of Counter Revolution in Cuba

Esteban Morales is Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of Havana, Honorary Director of the Center for American Studies at the University of Havana, and member of the Commission Against Racism and Racial Discrimination of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists-UNEAC. This article was first published in Spanish on the UNEAC website under the title "Corrupcion: ¿La Verdadera Contrarevoluci√≤n?"on April 9, 2010.  The English translation below is from Norman Girvan's website. According to a recent article in Havana Times, Morales' membership in the Communist Party has been revoked as because of publication of his article and that he is appealing this decision.  However, in its June 8 article, Diario de Cuba reports that Morales denies the news that his party membership has been revoked. Regardless of which of these sources are reporting accurately, Morales' article in important reminder of the major challenges that remain before the Cuban revolution as its historic leaders leave power to younger leadership. 

By Esteban Morales
When we closely observe Cuba's internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counter-revolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the State and Government.
Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the Revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR.
Fidel said that we ourselves could put an end to the Revolution and I tend to think that, among other concerns, the Commander in Chief was referring to the questions relative to corruption. Because this phenomenon, already present, has continued to appear in force. If not, see what has happened with the distribution of lands in usufruct in some municipalities around the country: fraud, illegalities, favoritism, bureaucratic slowness, etc.
In reality, corruption is a lot more dangerous than the so-called domestic dissidence. The latter is still isolated; it lacks an alternative program, has no real leaders, no masses. But corruption turns out to be the true counter-revolution, which can do the most damage because it is within the government and the state apparatus, which really manage the country's resources.
Otherwise, let us look at something very simple. When is there powdered milk in the black market (which has been rising in price to 70 pesos per kilogram)? When the powdered milk reaches the state-owned warehouses. There's no better example than that. And so it is with the products acquired in the black market by part of a majority of the population. In other words, at the expense of the state's resources, there is an illegal market from which everyone benefits, except the State.
And what can you tell me about the street vendors, outside the large hard-currency stores, offering to sell everything. It is a corruption in which almost everyone participates, generated by the corruption of state functionaries. Because, as far as we know, in Cuba there is only one importer – the State. I don't think that what comes in the packages from Miami can generate a market that big, much less a market of lasting products.
Observe, too, the movement of pork meat from state-run stores to private outlets, the prices of beverages and water sold at the various tourism chains. The suspicious differences in prices that we stumble on so frequently.
In other words, it is evident that there is an illegal flow of products between the state's wholesale trade and the street commerce. An entire underground economy that the State is unable to control and will be impossible to set aright as long as the big imbalances between supply and demand that today characterizes our economy exists.
This economy is, then, a form of counter-revolution that does have concealed leaders, offers alternatives to the State's offerings, and has masses that practice it.
But the situation sketched above is not the most dangerous part of the affair we are now dealing with. That's only its popular surrounding.
What was recently learned regarding the weaknesses of a group of functionaries at a very high level – having to do with favoritism, the buddy system, certain acts of corruption and carelessness in the handling of sensitive information, as well as some evidence of a struggle for power waged by those functionaries – was information that, lamentably, was passing into the hands of the Spanish intelligence services, even though those services were very careful not to enlist the officials' participation. Those are extremely serious matters.
In other words, matters as sensitive as the hunger and hope for power, favoritism, corruption and unseemly statements about the country's top leadership, which were already known by the foreign special services. A real “political merchandise” with extremely high added value in the hands of the enemies of the Revolution.
When the Cuban government turned over to the FBI all the information it had about the activities of the counter-revolution in the United States, activities that included even the possibility of assassination attempts against the U.S. president, what did the FBI do? Instead of taking steps against the counter-revolution, instead of acting against the Cuban-American Mafia, they sought to find out, like hound dogs, where the information that Cuba had given them came from, what were the sources. And there we have our five devoted, heroic compatriots who have spent more than 11 years serving unjust sentences in U.S. prisons.
After the statements made by Fidel about how we ourselves can destroy the Revolution, about the existence of reasons to think that our Revolution may be reversible, what the U.S. special services must be doing is looking for information that corroborates Fidel's concerns.
They're looking for confirmation for the words of the Commander in Chief, watching closely what happens every day in Cuba, digging into everything that may allow them to find out where is the real counter-revolutionary force in Cuba, a force that can topple the Revolution, a force that appears to be not below but above, in the very levels of government and the state apparatus.
It is formed by the corrupt officials, not at all minor, who are being discovered in very high posts and with strong connections – personal, domestic and external – generated after dozens of years occupying the same positions of power. Note than none of the men “defenestrated” until now (at least since Trials 1 and 2) was a simple employee.
Very recently, General Acevedo, director of the IACC (Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba) was removed, and what is making the rounds in unofficial circles about the reasons for his ouster is enough to keep people awake at nights.
There must be some truth in what they say, because this is a very small and familial country. The affair still has not had an exhaustive public explanation, as the people expect, because – if it's like the rumors say – the people's money and resources were squandered amid an economic situation that's quite critical to the country. So, either to vindicate Acevedo or to condemn him, you have to explain it to the people, the people the Revolution has created and formed, technically and scientifically, and who are prepared and with sufficient ability.
In reality, I must say, as a hypothesis, that what happened in the IACC is not unique. It has been discovered in other places and there may still be companies where the same is happening, i.e., where the chiefs are receiving commissions and opening bank accounts in other countries. Which is a working theory valid enough to open other investigations so that such affairs will not catch us by surprise. In economics, there is a “surprise audit” that is not meant to offend anyone and should not annoy anyone. To audit is not to offend; it is a mechanism of precaution that contributes to honesty.
An element we mustn’t fail to consider is that the focus of the United States' policy toward Cuba changed long ago (1986-1994). Today, basic attention is paid to Cuba's domestic reality. It is not an absolute orientation but it is fundamental and prioritized. Everything that's happening domestically in Cuba is being observed, monitored by the American politicians and particularly by the U.S. special services.
For obvious reasons that need not be explained, the Americans know better than us what Cubans and how many Cubans have bank accounts abroad. Who receive commissions and what business they're in. Because all the companies with which Cuba does business have intelligence apparatuses and almost all of them coordinate with the U.S. services. And if they don't, there are officials who, as soon as they get hold of sensitive information about Cuba, link up with the American services, which, by the way, pay handsomely for that information.
What's most lamentable is that the American services are better informed than we are about all the possible movements of our businessmen. And that's information that, if left to run, in other words, accumulate, is an excellent conduit for bribery, blackmail and the recruiting of any Cuban official. This doesn't mean it always works; there may be someone who becomes corrupt but doesn't allow himself to be recruited, because it is a very subtle matter. But whoever turns to corruption to enrich himself will find it difficult to retain other values.
Any Cuban functionary who, in his relations with any foreign enterprise, becomes corrupt, should know that that information could fall into the hands of the special services of any country, and from there to the hands of the American services it's but an instant. A dossier is immediately opened, and it is filled with information until it is considered necessary or pertinent to subject that functionary to bribery, blackmail or recruitment.
This is not being paranoid. Only fools fail to realize that any sensitive information about Cuba, its activities abroad or regarding any Cuban functionary, that is considered to be useful is very well paid by the special services of the United States. And if we don't know this by now, we're finished.
It is, then, a covert area of the subversion against Cuba that, particularly in the medium and long run, produces very good political dividends. It is an area of the counter-revolution that has nothing to do with the so-called dissidence, the piddling groups or the ill-called “ladies in white.”
Observe how the weaknesses of some Cuban functionaries were being transferred to the Spanish intelligence services. Cubans in the FAR and the MININT involved in drug trafficking. Discovered by Cuba in 1989, but that was already privileged information in the hands of the DEA, the FBI and the rest of the American special services.
Actions of that type seriously affect the ability of the country to press forward. It is as clear as a mathematical algorithm that the ability of any nation to deal with international confrontation is measured, in the first place, by its internal fortitude.
If at least Cuba could discover its corrupt officials early, the damage could be slighter. 


NTROPEE said...

Of course the US is ready, willing & able to take full advantage of institutional corruption & surely it has developed close clandestine links with those who seek to privatize the economic wealth held by the Cuban state (in the name of the people). Washington has had extensive experience with this process in Eastern Europe & Russia & the CIA is surely well aware of the Cuban functionaries in high places (and low) who are eager to become the new owners of a privatized Cuban economy.


Answer: YOU CAN'T.

History abounds with proof that top-down purges don't work. But I am not aware of any broad efforts to make the Cuban political system more open to grassroots, democratic accountability.

Thus, if a political & economic crisis destabilizes the Cuban system after Fidel passes from the scene, the island will be hard-pressed to avoid the fate of Eastern Europe.

Kamran Nayeri said...

Robert Kopec informed me of a June 8, 2010 article in Diario de Cuba in which Morales denies his membership in the Communist Party has been revoked. I added this new information to the preface to the post this morning, July 4, 2010. Thank you Robby!

Kamran Nayeri said...

Concerns expressed in the first comment are important.

However, it would be a mistake to believe that Cuba is in the same situation as the former USSR and the Eastern European countries were. As Cubans themselves have repeatedly pointed out before, Eastern European "socialism" took shape largely under the occupation of the Red Army. The Cuban revolution was entirely homegrown. Further, unlike the Soviet Union were a counter-revolutionary caste within the party and the state consolidated power and drove the working class out of power through massive repression, in Cuban workers and farmers still enjoy considerable power and mass mobilizations remain the principal form of state power (that is one reason U.S. has not been able to militarily attack Cuba). That is also the main reason Cuban internationalism survives to this day.

Still, Cuban revolution has not institutionalized sources of workers' power such as workers' control, workers' management, and soviets. Cuban communists have not critically examined the history of the international communist movement, including the class nature of the Soviet Union and the cause for its collapse. And, it is true, that the Cuban leadership remains paternalistic. The historic leadership team around Fidel Castro remains the ultimate decision maker.

Given the ebbs and flow of international class struggle and the heritage of relative economic and cultural backwardness( relative to requirement for socialism) corruption and bureaucracy remain a feature of the Cuban revolution and as Fidel and, in the present case, Morales, have pointed out, pose a grave internal danger to the revolution.

What can be done about it? It is essential to defend the Cuban revolution against all capitalist, imperialist attacks, including U.S. blockade. It is also important for labor, socialists, ecosocialists to build their relationship with their Cuban counterparts. Free travel and free exchange of ideas, especially revolutionary socialist ideas are required for further development of socialist consciousness in Cuban and in the world (as we can learn a lot from the Cuban experience).