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Cable sobre prácticas corruptas en Cuba

Una comunicación de la Sección de Intereses de La Habana señala que "el engaño se ha convertido en una forma de vida" en el país caribeño

ID: 61899
Date: 2006-04-26 18:34:00
Origin: 06HAVANA8986
Source: US Interests Section Havana
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 06HAVANA8769
Destination: VZCZCXRO5713
DE RUEHUB #8986/01 1161834
P 261834Z APR 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 008986



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2016


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Classified By: MICHAEL E. PARMLY FOR REASONS 1.4 b/d

1. (C) Summary: Castro has spent the past five months
battling corruption in a country where trickery has become
a way of life. Because most Cubans work for the state,
the entire system - from petty officials to Castro's
closest advisors - is rife with corrupt practices. Given
state control over all resources, corruption and thievery
have become one and the same. Corrupt practices also
include bribery, misuse of state resources and accounting
shenanigans. In its post-Soviet incarnation, Cuba has
become a state on the take. End Summary.

From Petty to Grande

2. (U) In October 2005, Castro embarked on a crusade
against corruption that shows no signs of letting up (ref
A). The concerted campaign has disrupted the lives of
many Cubans living off their abilities to "resolver" (a
word that implies everything from simply finding a
creative solution to outright stealing). Fifteen years
after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, "resolver" has
become a way of life in Cuba. Economic desperation
combined with totalitarian control has resulted in a state
system riddled by corruption from top to bottom.


3. (U) Bribes are a common means of getting around
suffocating controls. For example, Cubans are only
allowed to swap housing ("permutar") if both residences
are of equal value. Money is not allowed to exchange
hands in the transaction, but often does. If a Cuban
mother swaps a small apartment for a large one in a trade
that obviously involved compensation, she must also be
prepared to pay a GOC housing official several hundred
dollars to look the other way. An additional fee may be
required to push the deal through in a timely fashion. As
always, Cubans must tread carefully; accidentally
propositioning a clean official - or worse, a strident
revolutionary - could result in disaster.

4. (U) Block organizations (CDRs) have declined in
prominence over the years (to the point where few Cubans
have any interest in becoming CDR President), but still
maintain control over the distribution of goods. On rare
occasions, these goods are valuable. When televisions or
refrigerators become available through the state system,
CDR Officers are famous for giving preferential access to
two groups: Those that maintain good revolutionary
credentials... and those that can afford it.

5. (U) Bribes are also key to getting good jobs (good jobs
being those with opportunities to "resolver"). For
example, a job with access to a fuel tank (gas station or
other outlet) reportedly costs thousands of dollars, while
a job in tourism (with access to tips) might cost in the
hundreds. An unemployed Cuban told P/E Officer that a job
with elite state firm CIMEX (The Import-Export
Corporation) would cost him up to 500 USD.

6. (U) Cuban police officers are famous for taking bribes.
They pull drivers over for myriad transgressions, then
describe their "sick child." An Italian tourist told P/E
Officer that every time a police officer pulled him over,
it was always the officer's "birthday." The police are so
corrupt that the GOC regularly fills their ranks with
unsullied recruits from the East. As time passes, the new
crop becomes as corrupt as the old, and a fresh batch is
brought in to replace them.

Misuse of State Resources

7. (U) Cash is not abundant in Cuba, such that bribes
sometimes take a back seat to bartering, exchanging
favors, and "tit for tat" deals. A Cuban might not enjoy
control over anything easily stolen or sold on the black
market, but putting resources to other uses can be
lucrative. Transportation is a prime example. As every
Cuban knows, anyone behind the wheel of a state vehicle
(whether truck, bus, car or train) earns two incomes: a

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pittance from the state, plus additional income
transporting people or goods on the side. In another
example, a Cuban woman told P/E officer how she finally
managed to get her tooth capped successfully by paying
hard currency at an underground dental clinic, staffed by
health ministry dentists and outfitted with equipment
stolen from the state.

8. (U) Certain sectors, including shipping, tourism,
construction and food are notorious for generalized theft
and corruption. For example, there is a thriving black
market in cement, paint and wood. Or as one Cuban
commented (in response to Vice President Carlos Lage's
2005 promise to build 10,000 new housing units), "the GOC
can't build anything because it is simply impossible to
collect enough supplies in one place." The ration system,
which leaves bulk foods under the supervision of bodega
employees, is also notorious for theft and corruption. As
mentioned above, the housing office, or "Vivienda," is
also famous for corruption.

9. (U) In Cuba's so-called "productive" sectors, much
wheeling and dealing goes on behind the scenes as state
managers swap goods, concoct inventories, fabricate
receipts, and deal in imaginary resources. They are aided
by an accounting system that equates the Cuban Peso (CP)
with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) on paper, though the
real exchange rate is 26 to 1. (For example, some
official state purchases are made in CUCs while others are
made in CPs.) To aid in the confusion, Cuban managers and
accountants still track their accounts with paper and
pencils. The resulting morass of numbers is so
incomprehensible that even "clean" managers are forced to
play accounting tricks in order to do their jobs.

10. (U) Some state installations are run by de facto
"mafias." One Cuban told P/E officer about the manager of
a bread distribution center who put his friends in key
jobs. He eventually came to control an entire chain of
state bakeries.

Power and Position

11. (C) The GOC stopped giving licenses to new paladars
(home-based restaurants) several years ago, raising
questions as to what the remaining operations had done to
stay open. An American specialist on the topic posited
that all upscale paladars were in some way "connected."
For example, a USINT officer outside the XXXXXXXXXXXX paladar
XXXXXXXXXXXX spotted the supposedly "self-employed" owner drive
up in a car with Ministry of the Interior (MININT) plates.
A one-table paladar in the Santa Fe neighborhood (known as
the "fish paladar") reportedly enjoys an elite clientele -
Raul Castro. In these days of heightened state control,
merely bribing inspectors is not enough to stay open.

12. (U) The benefits of holding a position of power within
the GOC can be lucrative. A Swiss businessman told P/E
officer that Cuban managers take kickbacks for awarding
large contracts to foreign companies and then deposit
those kickbacks in banks abroad. "Just like everywhere in
the world, a million dollar contract gets you 100,000 in
the bank," he commented. These state managers are not so
much members of the revolutionary elite, but rather
pragmatists who have carved out a space for themselves
within an otherwise rigid system. The former head of the
Tourism Ministry might serve as an example - he was
dismissed in 2004 due to "serious mistakes relating to
control" and replaced with a military general.

13. (C) Separate from this elite crowd of entrepreneurs
stand Castro's cadres of regime faithfuls, some of whom
are widely rumored to be corrupt (such as Castro clan
insider General Julio Casas Regueiro). Last year, Battle
of Ideas Head Otto Rivero (a Castro protege) almost lost
his job due to a corruption scandal. Battle of Ideas
personnel were rumored to be dipping into the pie at all
levels, from accounting shenanigans to making off with
food and television sets destined for the "Free the Five"


14. (C) Because the state controls - or tries to control -

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all aspects of life in Cuba, theft and corruption have
become one and the same. The hotel manager who
appropriates foodstuffs is both corrupt (he uses his state
job for personal gain) and a thief (he steals). The more
corruption grows, the more Castro tightens control, and
the more Cubans turn to corruption to get what they want.
The GOC leadership is well aware of the problem, but
Castro can't seem to make peace with it. As one local
diplomat ruminated, "Castro leads a saintly life, but
saints are special because they are rare." And so the
Comandante continues his struggle to wipe out corruption,
seemingly oblivious to its irreversibility as long as
profitable activity is illegal, individual success is
cause for suspicion, and old-fashioned hard work gets you

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