Photo: Yoani Sanchez
Several months ago a friend gave me this magnificent manual entitled "Toolbox for citizen control of corruption." Accompanied by a CD with numerous practical examples, I have read it in search of answers to a scourge that hits us harder every day. Right now we are surrounded by calls to eliminate the diversion of resources and theft in State enterprises. Thus, I have immersed myself in the pages of this book to learn what we, as individuals, can do in the face of such occurrences. Not surprisingly, I discover a word repeated over and over throughout every chapter: transparency. An effective anti-corruption campaign must be tied to exposure and denunciations in the national media. For every misappropriation a news report must offer the details, each embezzlement must face the most intense public criticism.
The calls made by the General-President at the recent conference of the Cuban Communist Party to eliminate secrecy, however, do not seem directed to throw all the necessary light on acts of this nature. There is an obvious selection of what can be said and what cannot be said, a clear line between what is publicly permitted and what is not. For example, still today, they have given us no details in the national press about the corruption in the Institute of Civil Aeronautics, which led to the dismissal of its president, Rogelio Acevedo. Nor a single word yet about the latest scandal in the banking system which has led to the investigation of several of its employees, although it still hasn't "touched" anyone in senior management. And what about the fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela, which hasn't brought us Internet but rather rumors about functionaries ousted for having stolen a part of its budget. And these are not just whispers: it's enough to travel through the recently repaired Linea Street tunnel to see that a good share of the materials destined for its restoration didn't end up being used in it. Why doesn't television talk about ALL of that?
It falls back into the same mistake: verticality. The fight against corruption is not only the task of a State or of the Comptroller General of the Republic. We citizens must all become involved, with the certainty that anyone can be called out for putting their hands in the national till. If the impression that there are "untouchables" continues to rule, thieves no one can judge because of their political history or their ideological fealty, then we cannot move forward. The day when we see one of these untouchables criticized on TV for diverting goods, adulterating prices, or lying about production figures, then we will begin to believe we are on the way to eliminating such a widespread problem. Meanwhile, I look at the manual I now have in my hands and it seems like nothing more than a list of improbable actions, a reservoir of illusions impractical here.
Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.
Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, can be ordered here.