Cuba, where “It’s Nobody’s Fault”

Jun 16, 2016 12:00 AM

Cuba spends US $2 billion every year importing food that could be produced at home. The government spends tens of millions of dollars to import livestock and agricultural inputs but often they do not reach their destination, the farmers.

In the port of Havana there are currently two warehouses filled with fertilizer going bad without anyone to pick up. The port workers say that its quality deteriorates “because of the time they have it there,” but that doesn’t seem to bother any agricultural authority.

Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

And it’s not an isolated case, Trabajadores newspaper reported that the port warehouses are overflowing with products, causing shortages, a drop in stevedore’s income and increased penalty payments for ships remaining in port.

Then the reporter asks “Who is to blame?” But then he immediately invites us not to go looking for anyone responsible, but solutions. It seems that the duo Buena Fe was inspired by the Cuban press when they wrote the song “It’s nobody’s fault.”


In Cuba the chaos isn’t always the result of inefficiency, sometimes it’s created to hide corruption, such as the wholesale theft of goods at the port. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

In Cuba the chaos isn’t always the result of inefficiency, sometimes it’s created to hide corruption, such as the wholesale theft of goods at the port. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

In this way, some problems remain unresolved for decades. Anyone old enough will remember the chaos of the “port-transport- internal economy chain” is as old as the inefficiency of Acopio, the government agency charged with picking up the harvests, the perennial poor quality of bread, or shortages of public transportation.

Later Cuban TV intervened and the ping pong game continued between managers without defining if any of them is to blame or whether the chaos is the result of an outdated model, which obviously does not work even for Cuba.

A private truck driver told me he could devote his vehicle full time to moving goods from the port. However, some leaders prefer products rotting in warehouses rather than hire self-employed carriers.

The country’s economy loses US $6,000 per day per ship, for delays in unloading. One of the ships expected, loaded with beans, must wait 60 days in the port, which will cost $360,000 to the nation, losses that will be passed on to all Cubans.

With what will be spent on the ship’s layover the government could buy 120,000 kilos of milk powder, 45,000 pairs of shoes or 400,000 liters of oil. We’re not talking about pennies but what an average Cuban would earn in 1,500 years working for the state.

The money Cuba’s "business people" lose through inefficiency or corruption directly affects the lack of prosperity of the average Cuban. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The money Cuba’s “business people” lose through inefficiency or corruption directly affects the lack of prosperity of the average Cuban. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

It doesn’t seem to matter how much the people of Cuba have to pay, what the port workers lose in their income, or the products “lost” in the seesaw. It seems that the “demands” for efficiency, mentioned so much in the press, are only for the lowly workers, never for management

There are 26 brigades ready to work at the port but the chaos has 80% of the stevedores sitting on a bench, said port workers. How can the workers be asked for efficiency if those who have to organize the work are incompetent?

Port workers have not remained silent, demanding explanations from the administration, the union and the Communist Party. “However we get no reply. The boats keep coming and the same situation continues: a lack of trucks.”

It is no surprise that the administration tries to deflect criticism of its employees but how is it possible that the union, “representative of the working class” and the Communist Party, “vanguard of society,” not take action on an issue that affects the national economy?

In theory, in Cuba’s state run businesses there is a balance of power between management, the union and the party, but they often behave like a club of friends, protecting each other from pressure from below and from any oversight from above.

Port workers protest the situation but do not receive any response from the administration, unions or the Communist Party. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Port workers protest the situation but do not receive any response from the administration, unions or the Communist Party. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Full containers have been stolen from the port of Havana. One of the drivers involved assured us that he charges 400 CUC for each trip and that they gave him all the papers in order to get the stolen cargo out smoothly.

The more corrupt or inefficient a business executive the more benefits trickle down to the rest. Thus complicity is guaranteed or at least the silence of those around him who should be a counterpart in the defense of national interests.

In the end, it’s the citizens who have less milk, shoes or oil because of the theft, and they are left without knowing who is responsible, what action will be taken against them or any changes in the work organization so as not to repeat the situation. Nothing at all.

A lack of information and transparency becomes the ideal breeding ground so that in 50 years Cubans will once again have to analyze the huge losses generated by the problems in the “port-transport-internal economy chain.”

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