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Posted December 06, 2005 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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By Marc Frank, Financial Times

Fidel Castro is mobilizing tens of thousands of young people and threatening a Cultural Revolution-style humiliation of corrupt officials in what the Cuban leader characterizes as a do-or-die struggle against graft, pilfering and the “new rich.”

The campaign is part of a broader effort, government sources say, to make effective use of increased resources flowing into the country from generous Venezuelan energy financing and payment for medical services, as well as Chinese soft trade and development credits.

The first target of the campaign, dubbed “Operation July 26” after Castro’s movement in the late 1950s that brought him to power, has been the country’s fuel distribution system.

Thousands of youths have taken over gas stations and started working in refineries and riding in fuel trucks to monitor an industry where as much as half of this precious resource was being stolen, according to receipts since the takeover began a month ago.

Cuba registered its first balance of payments surplus since 1989 last year and expects another surplus this year, despite an increase in imports of more than 30%.

“We need to get back to a situation where the state pays a wage that can meet basic needs and in proportion to what one contributes to society,” said Anicia Garcia, head of Havana University’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

She points out that state salaries and pensions have increased on average by more than 20% this year and that there are more consumer goods, mainly imported household appliances, and food available.

“We are taking advantage of the better situation to deal with the social problems that appeared during the crisis that came with the end of the Soviet Union. For example, that one could do better not working than working, or as a hotel bellboy or gas station attendant make more than a brain surgeon,” she said.

The Communist party launched an assault two years ago on “corruption and illegalities” within its ranks and the state administration as it recentralized economic activity and control over hard currency after what it characterized as “liberal errors” in the 1990s.

Bureaucratic corruption and a booming black market are nothing new in state-run economies like Cuba’s, but Castro said recently that market-oriented reforms such as decentralization, authorization of small private initiatives and circulation of the dollar alongside the peso, among other emergency measures taken after European communism’s collapse, “increased these ills to the point where they have taken on a certain massive character and inequality has grown.”

Castro said he was mobilizing 26,000 young social workers to fight for a “purer” society and would mobilize more than 100,000 social workers and university students if needed, threatening to drag corrupt officials out in public.

Oscar Espinosa, an economist recently released from prison after serving time for dissident activities, said the current campaign would simply create more hardship and more illegal activity.

“What we need here is market reform, like in China or Vietnam. By returning to command economics and repression, they are simply throwing gas on the fire,” he said.

The drive against corruption apparently has made little progress, and the military was forced to take over operations at the port of Havana in September to handle increased imports and stop theft by port workers and truckers.

“In this battle against vice, nobody will be spared,” Castro said in a recent speech. “Either we defeat all these deviations and make our revolution strong or the revolution dies.”

He blamed the “new rich” for Cuba’s social ills, without defining who they were, except that they had access to hard currency.

The Cuban leader said social workers were organizing cells in neighborhoods to fight corruption and illegalities, much as his movement did in the 1950s during the revolution.

Young people have also fanned out to bakeries, checking how many rolls are needed to meet a neighborhood quota, then adjusting wheat and other deliveries accordingly.

Neighborhood pharmacies, dollar shops and eating places are rumored to be next on the list.

Busloads of young people, armed with clipboards and energy-saving light bulbs, have appeared in some neighborhoods as part of an energy-saving drive that includes stiff price increases.

They hand out the bulbs while taking a census of the electrical appliances in each home, which they then characterize as poor, normal or well off, raising fears in the latter that they are being classified as the “new rich.”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on December 06, 2005 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I can’t believe that anyone in Cuba would be happy to see these new “enforcers”.

    Imagine a young idealist communist going up to a Havana dock worker and monitoring their behavior.

    Imagine a young idealist communist going into homes and rating them based on their possessions.

    Imagine a young idealist communist going into stores and telling store managers how to do their jobs.

    Imagine what these young idealist communists will discover. Imagine what they will say to the “criminals”. Imagine what they will do to report and manage the activities of their older comrades.

    I think this is just going to piss off many (most?) people in Cuba that need to work the system just to get by from day to day.

    I think there will be fights and maybe even pockets of rebellion. Nobody likes being monitored or told what to do, especially by an outsider and especially by some young idealist communist.

    Fidel, “la revolucion” has outlived its welcome. Learn from China or learn from the Soviet Union, you decide.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on December 06, 2005 by jesusp with 246 total posts

    Reform and change is long, long overdue, the economic sector and its practices are in dire need of reforms and it does not have to be at the expense of the social gains the revolution has made. Socialism and a more open market economy are not incompatible philosophies.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on December 08, 2005 by waldo with 264 total posts

    Like in Mejico and many other Latinamerican nations, Pilferage, waste, corruption and plain theft is on the increase and do exist and occur in many communities and work places in Cuba; and something needs to be done. These practicaly unexisting before inspectors and auditors should help to do the job.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 08, 2005 by Chuck Bailey

    Will we see Party controlled judges, convict and send Party picked individuals ( managing distribution )to jails or work farms? Cuba is a pig-pen and it is only a matter of time until the real pigs are sent to market!!  Chuck

  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 11, 2005 by Libertarian Debunker

    The Communist regime in Cuba talks about corruption the new rich
    without stating precisely who are these “comrades”.

    More likely they are members of the ruling class, the usual arse lickers that claim to be revolutionaries but in fact are the one keeping the Cuban people in poverty.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on December 11, 2005 by waldo with 264 total posts

    There also are many workers(which realy do very little work) in places that deal with supplies and tourism that are ‘getting ahead’ by stealing, selling and dealing in the black market. These individuals, in small organized groupies of friends, are not in places of leadership and are not members of the ruling class. Joining them are cronic complainers, many young males that do not work, attend free schools or seek employment, and that do not contribute anything positive to society. The proper place for them seems to be Dade County, Florida, under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

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