News and Facts about Cuba

Corruption, the Cancer of Cuban Public Transportation

Corruption, the Cancer of Cuban / 14ymedio,
Ernesto Perez Chang
Posted on February 10, 2015

Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 7 February 2015 — More than a
decade has passed since the first big purchase of busses from and
Russia was made in order to ameliorate the transportation problem in
Cuba, and no improvement is in sight. Contrary to what was promised
then, moving from one point to another becomes each day a greater agony
for low-income citizens.

Although officials from the Ministry of Transportation continue blaming
the economic and the world crisis for all the difficulties they
face, it is well known that there are other phenomena, many of them
related to corruption.

In that sense, it is not surprising to encounter silence in the official
media and in the statements by some officials in which they try to hide
the million-dollar embezzlements that the importing and transportation
companies must confront every year such that what is invested on one
side passes to the pockets of a few on the other.

Besides the negative figures supplied by Ricardo Chacon, Director of
International Relations for the Ministry of Transportation (MITRANS), in
the press conference held in 2014 in order to “denounce the embargo,”
there were other data missing about the damages caused to the Cuban
by the frauds and thefts committed by some of the senior leaders
of strategic enterprises related to transportation.

According to what we could learn through an official from Havana’s
Provincial Transportation Department, who for obvious reasons has asked
our discretion as far as his identity, a great part of the economic
losses that were suffered last year, as in years before, is due to the
chaos and the embezzlement of great sums of money by senior leaders of
enterprises like Transimport, whose director, Jesus Jose de Hombre, was
some months ago and is under investigation for an act of
corruption that also involves the director of the company Autopartes,
tied to the illicit sale of thousands of engines that were intended for
public transportation.

On the streets of Cuba it is common knowledge that the black market for
parts and vehicles, as well as for all services related to the field, is
supplied by a network of corruption that reaches the highest levels in
government institutions. The inability to honestly administer all these
enterprises that function as true mafias is obvious when the constant
resignations by officials are taken into account, the frequent changes
of high managers as well as of the ministers and vice-ministers related
directly or indirectly to transportation but, also, when it is revealed
to us the exaggerated price of a vacant position in any of the
warehouses or offices related to the sale or import of automobiles and
auto parts.

A worker – whom we do not identify for his safety – for one of the
warehouses of the Gaviota enterprise group, in the capital, tells us
about this particular:

“The job as assistant to the Warehouse Chief goes for a thousand dollars
and those that have to do with marketing also are “nibbling close.”
There are people here who have entered on the and left in a Hyundai.
They enter without a peso in their pockets because of what they had they
spent on buying the job but later they get twenty times what they
invested. Here I have seen new cars being removed, just arrived through
the port. Later old cars are put out to rent, as if they were the new ones.”

All of the old trucks and cars that circulate through the city, above
all those dedicated to the particular business of transportation, are
known to get their spare parts in mechanisms of the dark market due to
the absence of legal providers. It might seem like a miracle that cars
in use for more than half a century still continue rolling on the
country’s highways but a glance inside of any of them would dispel such

The driver of an almendron (a 1950s American car for hire) says about
the expenses that keeping those vehicles functioning implies that
necessity has become part of the urban profile.

“You have to go out and look for all the parts. As there are none, they
stab you with the prices. If you want to have it running at least eight
hours, so that the business pays you, you know that in a year or two you
are going to have to “re-motorize yourself.” Every week you have to give
it maintenance so that it doesn’t die and adapt all kinds of parts. And
none of it is legal, they all require papers and you pay this and that
and the other so that everything comes out okay. Everyone who has a car
rolling on the street has to make an arrangement if you don’t want to
forget about the car. The State requires you to go to the black market
because it doesn’t give you anything. They know what they are doing and
they have seen a windfall in that. He who makes the law makes the trap.”

Even though for the foreign visitor it could all work wonderfully –
given that they the best routes of the country in comfortable
panoramic buses and not in horse drawn carriages or unsafe trucks like
those at the Lido terminal in Mariano – the transportation outlook on
the island is quite grim. There is no way to break that cycle of
corruption that the government itself has created and not because of
inability or innocence. So many years committing the same mistakes only
points to something quite high, at the head of the State, someone knows
how to finish that infallible refrain that seems the slogan of every
social project: There’s good fishing in troubled waters.

About the author:

Ernesto Pérez Chang (El Cerro, Havana, June 15, 1971) Writer. Graduate
of Philology from the of Havana. He studied Galician Language
and Culture at the University of Santiago de Compostela. He has
published these novels: Your Eyes Face Nothing (2006) and Alicia Under
Her Own Shadow (2012). At the end of this year the outlet Silueta in
Miami will publish his most recent novel, . He is also the author of
books of stories: Last Pictures of Mama Nude (2000); The Ghosts of Sade
(2002); Stories From Headquarters (2003); Variations on the Illiterate
(2007), The Art Of Dying Alone (2011) and One Hundred Lethal Stories
(2014). His narrative work has been recognized with the prizes: David de
Cuento, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), in 1999;
Gazette Story Prize of Cuba on two occasions, 1998 and 2008; Julio
Cortazar Latin American Story Prize in its first call in 2002; National
Critic’s Prize in 2007, Alejo Carpentier Story Prize in 2011, among
others. He has worked as editor for numerous Cuban cultural institutions
such as the House of the Americas (1997-2008), Art and Literature
Editorial, the Center for Research and Development of Cuban Music. He
was Editor in Chief of the magazine Union (2008-2011).

Translated by MLK

Source: Corruption, the Cancer of Cuban Public Transportation /
14ymedio, Ernesto Perez Chang | Translating Cuba –

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