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December 28, 2012

Guavas, coconuts and corruption, oh my!

By Sister Begonia

Ordinary Cuban citizens--and even the revolution's highest leaders--find it difficult to blame their endemic corruption, mismanagement and apathy on the antiquated, tired and infantile cliché of the embargo, the CIA, the mob, the Marines, the imperialists, and the capitalists. A critical look at Cuba's own media will show how and why.



A June 2012 editorial on Granma's (the Cuban Communist Party's official newspaper) website proclaims in bold letters: "Cuba determined to perfect struggle against corruption." A subsequent article published in November reads: "The phenomenon of corruption requires an organized response." The author then proceeds to quote a speech by Cuba's attorney general Darío Delgado Cura on the subject of corruption in the island. The speech opens with the following paragraph:

"Reflecting on the phenomenon of corruption in Cuba is not only an academic exercise, but also an important and urgent responsibility, given the clear consequences it generates in the moral, economic and social order and the possibility of its development in any kind of society. We are doing so at a particularly relevant time, immersed in the updating of Cuba's economic model, with the goal of ensuring the continuity and irreversibility of socialism."

It continues with several paragraphs of telling rhetoric, such as:

"Corruption is a phenomenon with many causes in which individual behavior, motivated by moral, ethical, economic and political factors, is combined with a lack of supervision, permissiveness and the violation of established legal norms."

It ends with:

"THE CORRUPTION WE FACE IN OUR COUNTRY IS ADMINISTRATIVE ... In our country, the corruption we face is administrative and has been identified at certain levels within several sectors, principally within enterprises."

Delgado Cura goes on to detail the Cuban government's current associations with foreign corporations, the different forms of corruption and crimes that riddle the system and the required punishment for them, and other problems endemic to the system. The entire speech can be found here .

Although it was probably not their intent, Granma subsequently published two letters written by Cuban citizens illustrating and summarizing the endemic corruption and mismanagement prevalent in the regime, as described by the attorney general in his speech.

The first letter was titled "Guayabas a la deriva" (Guavas on the loose) and reads:

"For the past 4 years, I've had a contract with the preserves and vegetables industry in the City of Sancti Spiritus. I provide them with guavas for making baby food. I do my job gladly, as I am conscious of how important it is for the country to substitute imports (a ton of guava pulp costs about $2,000 USD in the foreign market, not including shipping and operating costs).

However, the events I experienced with my production contradict the indications of the supreme direction of the Revolution which call for maximizing the production of fruits in order to save resources and minimize the import of those products that can be produced on our own soil.

Our contract this year (2012) called for the delivery of 80 tons of guava to Acopio - before October 8th. We fulfilled our quota before that date and, given the great production potential of our co-op, Acopio renewed our contract for an additional 20 tons of fruit.

We encountered our first problem on Thursday, October 11th when we arrived at the Acopio collection center in the town of Meneses with 235 cases of guavas and we were told they would not be accepted because the industry had fulfilled its quota for the year.

After many inquiries to Acopio and the Farmers Delegation in the Yaguajay municipality, we were unable to resolve the problem. Thus, we were forced to throw away 235 cases of guavas. The product never arrived at its destination and we wasted our investment of time, labor and resources.

After the above incident took place, we were contacted by the Acopio office in the Yaguajay municipality with instructions to continue harvesting the guavas as -- we were told - they had resolved their problems with the industry requirements.

We harvested another 293 cases (approximately 136 quintales -) and returned to the collection center to deliver them. Upon arrival, we were informed to stop the harvest as they were no longer accepting the fruit. Since that time, our guavas have been rotting on the fields without arriving at their destiny.

As of the writing of this letter ( Nov. 9, 2012 ), our losses exceed 35 tons (approximately 51,000 Cuban Pesos). Our losses will be larger in November - the height of the season - and we still have fields full of ripe, ripening and green guavas in our fields.

It could be argued that we must sell the fruit on our own to the public at the local markets and the question begs to be asked: is it possible that the needs of the people have been met by the industry two months ahead of time when it fulfilled its quota? Is this efficient planning?

How much pulp, marmalade, jam, deserts could be produced with the guavas we have lost?"

Signed: S. Díaz Hernández

[The letter can be read here .]

The second letter references and/or is in reply to the first, and was titled, "Le zumba la guayaba, pero también el coco!" (Unbelievable, guavas and coconuts too!) and reads:

"We recently read in Granma a letter written by a farmer recounting his odyssey with Acopio and the loss of his guava harvest. And we can't help but wonder how many more farmers -- who never thought of going to the media with their stories - have had the same experience.

It's hard to believe that our workplace "La Flora" - which specializes in baking breads and pastries for public consumption - recently had to stop the production of at least 6 different types of baked goods because we didn't have the main ingredients they're made with: guava marmalade. And when it comes to coconut, the situation is even worse. We haven't had coconut filling since last May which has caused the production line for those related goods to be shot down. Are there guavas and coconuts in Cuba? Who would dare ask that?

What we do dare to say is that we must correct a number of things, including the following:

First, we must overcome our dominant "neocolonial' mentality that dictates that everything that comes from abroad is better or safer or both.

Second, we can't plan our national production -- as many Cubans rightly or wrongly criticize -- with the hopes of negotiating contracts with other countries, thus, compromising our production capability and our national services. Those who criticize these actions are right when they point out that the integrity of those who run the economy based on these uncertain plans must be questioned.

The production of guavas, coconuts and every other product or service must be planned ahead of time as they require different phases of assurance and must meet a demand. What is required in January cannot arrive in Oktember (sic). Difficulties with the economy abound and we cannot blame all our problems on imperialism. It remains to be seen whether we can demand that certain verbs be conjugated in all its possible variations in Spanish, Russian and English.

In 1996, Comrade Raúl Castro told us -- referring to marketing, technology and planning, that "we can't have either improvisation or voluntarism, in the same way that it can't apply to anything else."

The verb "to demand" must be conjugated in Spanish and in every language and dialect around the world.

Cubans must learn that anyone who acts in a negligent manner (aside from those who act with malice) wastes, damages, destroys and renders resources useless is taking money from our pocket. The pockets of the state and the government are our own pockets and not the pockets of the capitalists. It doesn't matter how many different forms of ownership there are in our country, we continue to be a Socialist state. If we understand that, we have an obligation, each of us, to do our part."

Signed: J. L. Marichal Castillo

[The letter can be read here .]

It appears that ordinary Cuban citizens--and even the revolution's highest leaders--find it difficult to blame their endemic corruption, mismanagement and apathy on the rhetorical cliché of the embargo, the CIA, the mob, the Marines, the imperialists, and the capitalists. Or, it could very well be that since such occurrences define their lives, the Cuban people can plainly see the cognitive dissonance between their daily reality and the rudimentary propaganda issued by their government for the wholesale consumption of the most mentally-deficient beings on the planet, for whom talk is cheap and the plight of the Cuban people is but a logo on a t-shirt made in China and purchased at Wal-Mart for $10, the equivalent of the monthly salary of those they so envy.

Submitters Bio:

"I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." George W. Bush, Sharm el-Sheikh August 2003 Thank god he's gone!