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Corruption in Cuba
Ever since the small Caribbean nation of Cuba became a nation in 1902, corruption at all levels of its society has plagued it. From the face of the nation to the small-time citizen, corruption impacts almost every person in Cuba.

Cuba has suffered over a century of corrupt government officials, businessmen and everyday citizens taking advantage of the already impoverished nation. Cuba has formed policies in an attempt to stop the trends that so many are familiar with, but the country needs to do more. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Cuba including its history and what the country is doing to combat it.

10 Facts About Corruption in Cuba

  1. It was not until the presidency of Jose Miguel Gomes in 1909 that Cuba experienced major public corruption. He earned the nickname of The Shark because of his involvement in several government corruption scandals that became public. The second president of Cuba and his supporters were guilty of embezzlement of funds.
  2. In 1952, Fulgencio Batista and the army led a military coup on the sitting president, Carlos Prio Socarras. Batista subsequently became president and led a corrupt dictatorship that would make millions off of profiteering from foreign investors’ illegal gambling and even criminal organizations. Batista received 30 percent of profits from Cuban casinos and hotels owned by the gangster, Meyer Lansky, alone.
  3. After six years of corruption and exploitation under the dictatorship of Batista, the Cuban people had enough. Fidel Castro led his revolutionary forces to depose Batista from power on January 1, 1959. The style of government that Castro installed did not fix the problem of corruption; it only changed those in charge.
  4. Corrupt officials take bribes from the few foreign companies in Cuba in exchange for lucrative contracts. An incident like this led to the arrest of the Canadian CEO of the Tokmakjian Group in 2011. Cy Tokmakjian was guilty of giving gifts to Cuban officials in exchange for government contracts for his Ontario, Canada-based transportation company.
  5. The police in Cuba often search the vehicles and homes of the Cuban people, and instead of charging individuals with a particular crime, they seek bribes to gain profit for their time. The police have the power to stop and question any citizen and carry out search and seizure operations without a warrant. Officially, in order to search someone’s home, police need a warrant, however, they still confiscate goods without these warrants.
  6.  State employees steal and sell state goods on the black market. As much as 20 percent of goods are stolen and distributed around the country. The Cuban government provides most of the goods for the people; items become very scarce or not seen at all as a result of the overwhelming theft. For example, people have a difficult time locating construction materials, such as paint wood and cement, because people steal them frequently.
  7. The practice of sociolisomo is widespread in the Cuban government and top positions of power. Sociolisomo translates to partner-ism and is the reciprocal exchange of favors by individuals. Those in power and control of the state-run resources often let people gain access to these resources via bribes or some other form of material compensation. For example, hospitals give people preferential treatment if they can supply the hospital with scarce material items, such as pens and paper, or provide other services to the hospital.
  8. Today, Cuba is progressing in the right direction when it comes to corruption. Transparency International has ranked Cuba at 47 out of 100; this is up from the country’s lowest of 35 in 2006. One hundred means that a country is completely free of corruption and zero means the country is very corrupt. Transparency International has ranked Cuba 61 on the list of 180 countries.
  9. When Raul Castro took power in 2008, he promised to crack down on corruption in all of Cuba. In 2009, he created the Office of the Comptroller General, which was tasked with auditing companies and state-run institutions. This was meant to bring to light and put in check the levels of corruption that have run rampant in the highest levels of government for decades. Recently, the office discovered in 2018 Cuba’s economy suffered millions of dollars worth of damage. Investigations found that 369 public enterprises were to blame for corruption including a lack of control of accounts and breach of payments. The office determined that 1,427 people were responsible.
  10. In 2001, the government of Cuba created the Ministry for Auditing and Control to help combat corruption in Cuba. Through auditing and inspections of the Cuban Civil Aviation Institute in 2011, the Cuban government was able to discover millions of dollars in the home of Rogelio Acevedo. The investigation found that Acevedo was leasing state airplanes off the official books and keeping the money for himself.

Despite a long history of corruption in Cuba, the new leadership is taking steps to combat corruption on the island nation. Corruption in Cuba still exists today but data shows that the country is heading in the right direction. Only time will tell if the newly implemented policies will have a positive impact on the Cuban people.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Cuba
Cuba is a unique island nation whose economy has been the subject of contention for decades. It is also a poor country that struggles to provide housing, transportation and other necessities. The Borgen Project outlines five of the main causes of poverty in Cuba.

Top 5 Causes of Poverty in Cuba

1. U.S. Embargo

Following Fidel Castro’s assumption of power in 1961, the U.S. imposed an embargo that abruptly deprived Cuban exporters of the recipient of 95 percent of their exports. Since then, the embargo has strictly restricted Cubans’ access to American products, contributing to shortages of everything from food, to electronics and internet access. The legislation of the embargo even includes sanctions against other countries that do business with Cuba. In this way, the embargo significantly limits Cubans’ access to products, partners and the means to climb out of poverty.

2. Agriculture

Like many developing countries across the world, Cuba has historically depended on agriculture as its main industry. Agricultural dependence often limits countries’ abilities to develop infrastructure and establish economic stability. Until the 1990s, the primary economic driver in Cuba was sugar. Because of this historical reliance on a single crop, Cuba has been ill-prepared to deal with changes in the global economy and to diversify beyond its agricultural roots.

3. Allies

For more than thirty years, Cuba was allied with the former Soviet Union. This relationship created special trading conditions which benefited the Cuban economy. Cuba traded sugar to the USSR for much-needed goods and economic support; but when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba experienced a 35 percent contraction of its GDP. In a country of only 11 million people, this financial crash was more extreme than the American Great Depression. Cuba has yet to fully recover from this economic blow.

4. Dependence

Cuba’s troubles with the USSR are part of a larger pattern of centralization. For the majority of the country’s history, Cuba depended on a single trading partner for over 90 percent of its foreign trade. Cuba’s exclusive relationship with first the U.S. and then the USSR caused big problems when these partners suddenly disappeared. Cuba also traditionally focused industrially on sugar production; this centralization further limits Cuba’s ability to find sources of revenue to meet the country’s needs.

5. Social Services

Cubans enjoy free health care and education, as well as subsidized housing and food rations. These social benefits form a safety net rare to the developing world and even many developed countries; but these social services come at a cost. Spending on social services can limit the amount of money available to the Cuban government and the Cuban people especially in times of economic crisis.

The causes of poverty in Cuba are similar to those in the rest of Latin America, but Cuba’s unique position also presents the country with some unique challenges. Still, thanks to Cuba’s vigorous social services, many Cubans can count themselves lucky compared to other impoverished nations.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Pixabay

Health Care In Cuba
Can the death of former Cuban President, Fidel Castro, reinvigorate U.S. – Cuban relations?

Fifty-six years ago, U.S. President Eisenhower placed an economic embargo and severed diplomatic relations with the newly recognized Castro regime, in hopes to “build an open and democratic country.”

Over the subsequent decades, U.S. policy on Cuba is best described as complacent – rarely altered and ineffective. Consequently, the United States faces backlash for the failed policy by other countries in the Latin American sphere – citing “Washington’s isolation of Cuba increasing proved counterproductive.”

Relations remained unfettered until 2014 when President Obama and President Castro simultaneously announced a diplomatic rapprochement.

A fresh slate for U.S. – Cuban relations conjures the prospect of increased benefits for both countries – particularly the isolated health care in Cuba.

Cuba, however, is associated with the appellation, the “Cuban Health Paradox”, which defies the conventional wisdom of associating the health of a country with its overall wealth.

Health care in Cuba is remarkably robust. In 2014, Cuban life expectancy was slightly higher than that of the United States. The centrally-planned government heavily invests in the Cuban Health Paradox, which is exemplified by high childhood vaccination rates and a swath of doctors.

The Communist government has also ensured that health care in Cuba is a fundamental right afforded to all citizens. Moreover, the Cuban health paradox has produced a citizenry that is “more likely to die from the maladies that kill rich people – cancer and heart disease – than the communicable disease that kills in most poor places.

That being said, the Cuban people still contend with grave health risks. Many important medicines are not available and specialized medical care is nearly non-existent. Even basic disinfectants are sparse.

Beyond health care in Cuba, the Cuban economy has demonstrated a rapid decline in standard economic measurements over the last 60 years. The underwhelming performance is highlighted by the reduction of independent newspaper among Latin American countries. Additionally, Cuba is increasingly more dependent on outside sources of funding. In 2013, remittances accounted for $5.1 billion, which was enough to provide every Cuban with $1,000. The figure is striking when compared with the average annual salary of $260.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Cuban Refugees
Following Fidel Castro’s disposal of the Batista regime, Cuba became known as a refugee state. Thereafter the United States began receiving the majority of Cuban refugees.

  1. There are more than 1.5 million Cuban refugees living in the United States.
  2. The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The law allowed any Cuban citizen the legal right to become a U.S. permanent resident after being in the U.S. for at least two years.
  3. The first type of Cuban refugee consisted of mostly middle and upper social classes. They left Cuba in the 1950s to 1970s following the dictatorship take-over of Fidel Castro. In fear of reprisals from the Communist party, they left everything in search of political asylum.
  4. The second type of Cuban refugee consisted mostly of poor Cubans seeking economic opportunities in the 1980s.
  5. The majority of Cuban refugees fled to Florida because of the state’s close proximity. Currently, approximately 68 percent of Cuban refugees live in Florida.
  6. To counteract the emigration, Castro began incarcerating and executing those he perceived as opponents.
  7. Between 1960 and 1962, over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the U.S. by their parents in what was known as Operation Peter Pan. These children were placed in foster homes and cared for by the Catholic Church in an effort to avoid indoctrination into the Communist party.
  8. In order to go to war with Cuba, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted a plan to trick the American public into supporting a war against Castro. This project was code-named Operation Northwoods and included plans to sink boats filled with Cuban refugees and then blame the violence on Castro. The plan was rejected by the Kennedy administration.
  9. In 1980, frustrated with the lack of help, a group of Cubans drove a bus through the gates of the Havana Peruvian Embassy to request asylum. The Peruvian ambassador refused to return the asylum-seeking Cubans to the Cuban authorities. Eventually, these Cubans were allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.
  10. Currently, many organizations focus on giving aid to Cuban refugees and immigrants. Their mission is to search for Cuban refugee rafters in the Florida seas.

Since 2012, the Cuban government began easing its restrictive immigration policies. A visa is no longer required to leave the country. Because of this, there has been an influx of Cuban refugees entering the United States and more are expected this year.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr