Corruption and its Three Enormous Harms / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Protest against corruption in Spain (Flickr/CC)

Protest against corruption in Spain: “They don’t govern, they steal!” (Flickr/CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 25 April 2015 – Mexico and corruption are two words that always go hand in glove, or as the Columbians mischievously say, “grab each other’s peepees.”

Corruption in Venezuela is greater, and that of Argentina is not far behind, according to Transparency International, but to judge by what is happening in Chile, Brazil and Cuba, it seems to be a bad Latin American epidemic.  The continent, with few exceptions, is a pigsty.

In any case, the Mexican government wants to end corruption. It was about time. Is that possible? When did it start? They tell you, laughing, as soon as you set foot in the country.

The Spanish conquistadors tortured Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec chieftain, to make him reveal where he hid the gold:

“Tell me, you damned Indian, where the gold is,” screamed the torturer, through the interpreter, while he burned the hands and feet of the warrior prince.

“I’ve told you forty times that it is buried 50 steps from the pyramid, under the palm tree,” screamed Cuauhtemoc, writhing in pain.

“He says he does not know, and that if he did know, he would never tell you,” translated the interpreter, secretly rubbing his hands together.

It all started there. Right at the beginning. The confusion between public and private is in Latin America’s DNA and in that of three quarters of the planet. They gave Hernan Cortez a tribute of 20,000 Indians as a reward for the conquest of Mexico. Then they took them away, and the fierce captain ended up in Europe, poor and angry, unable to forget the scorching odor of burned flesh.

Some cynics and pragmatists – sometimes they are the same – maintain that corruption is a form of wealth redistribution and income growth, designed to stabilize society through a web of interests and complicities.

I do not believe it. The harms that unpunished corruption causes are usually devastating. Let’s look at just three from an infinitely greater list.

First, it rots the essential premise of the Rule of Law, making a lie of the principle that everyone is subject to the authority of the law. If the politician or the civil servant steals with impunity, or receives bribes for granting favors, why is the common citizen going to pay taxes?  What stops him from lying or cheating?

The law establishes that it is a crime to sell cocaine and also to seize public property.  Why not sell cocaine if others embezzle the national treasury with impunity?  Why not rob a bank?  What moral difference is there between stealing from everyone or stealing from a business or an individual person?

Second, it distorts and inflates the whole economic process.  The market economy is based on free competition.  It presumes that goods and services compete on price and quality.  It is the end buyer who decides which businesses succeed or fail.  When a politician or an official favors one business in exchange for a commission, this unholy operation forces the consumer to select an inferior and more expensive option, given that the cost of corruption is added to the prices.

Moreover, corruption eliminates incentives to innovate and improve the quality of the offer, while it notably reduces productivity, which is the foundation for growth.  Why be more productive and lower prices if we have a captive market?  Why design a new and better car if the customer is obliged to buy the usual one?  Sometimes the businesses themselves distort the market by agreeing among themselves to raise prices.  This is another serious form of corruption.

Third, it destroys the ideal meritocratic structure to which all healthy societies should aspire.  It weakens the passion to study and curbs the entrepreneurial impulse. In corrupt societies personal connections prevail.  “He who has godparents gets baptized.”  That is the general order.  Ties are more important than effort to compete in an open and free market.  What sense does it make to burn the midnight oil studying when, in order to enrich yourself, it suffices to pass an envelope under the table of a corrupt official?  Why sweat and toil in the effort to create a successful business if to achieve economic success a combination of personal relations and lack of scruples suffices?

There is no doubt: corruption kills the political and economic system and moral values.  Ask the Spaniards who today walk that dark and uncertain road. Of course corruption is a tendency present in our species. That is known, but it is not a good excuse. Either we fight it and defeat it or it devours us. It is that simple.

Translated by MLK

The Summit of Obama and Castro / Ivan Garcia

Source: Faro

Ivan Garcia, 15 April 2015 —  There were two Summits of the Americas. The one that will be remembered by history is the one of Raul Castro, wide-eyed in the presence of Barack Obama, like a boy waiting to ask for an autograph from a movie star leaving a hotel.

When the tale is told of the VII Summit (which took place in Panama on April 10 and 11, 2015), historians will recall General Castro’s 48-minute speech and his flattering remarks about the U.S. president. And Obama’s comments.

Cuba in 2015 will be remembered for what it is: a country of autocrats where human rights are limited to the right to life, work, universal health coverage and education.

The remaining rights are, according to the regime, fairy tales of bourgeois democracy. Presidential elections? For what? There is no need for multiple parties when one will do. Public demonstrations in the streets and at universities are only for those who support the Castros. Continue reading

Deputies of the European Union Request Freedom for Angel Santiesteban

“What new trap will the dictatorship lay for April 28, the date when Angel Santiesteban-Prats should be released on parole?”

Justice continues to impose itself. In Cuba, behind the bars with which they have tried to imprison his body, without being able to capture his spirit and his ideas, Angel Santiesteban-Prats is today a little freer.

The world, Europe in particular, is making a new gesture, showing that dignity still is not lost in the world of high politics, in the world that prefers to make economic, commercial and political concessions to the Castro brothers’ dictatorship, ignoring the enormous violations of human rights that the Regime perpetrates on the Island. Continue reading

Trashcan City / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 April 2015 — Half a century ago Havana was a clean city with an efficient system for trash collection and streets that were swept every day. Not only did mechanized sweepers ply the main boulevards and avenues, after midnight these thoroughfares were also washed down with high-pressure water hoses. In addition to the steps taken by the city government, owners of business and covered walkways made sure the sidewalks adjoining their buildings were clean. As though that were not enough, both public buses and commercial transport vehicles had to be absolutely spotless, both inside and out, in order to operate.

When new officials came to power, the system began to decline. In its current state the city is one big trash can. Continue reading

The Bullies That Castro Sent to Panama / Angel Santiesteban

Screen capture from Cuban State television. Caption: “Mercenaries [i.e. independent human rights activists] attack the Cuban delegation in Panama.”

For a few seconds you could see the video on Telesur of the blows given by the official Cuban delegates in Panama. I managed to see, and it’s the gesture I remember the most, a man who, above the rest, attacked with his fist, exercising brutal force, and I remembered that on November 8, 2012, when I was in front of the Acosta police station, members of Cuban State Security beat me for demanding freedom for Antonio Rodiles, who was detained in jail there.

Beating Cuban dissidents is a daily practice. They can’t avoid doing what they always do. It’s their instinct, their Castrista education. Continue reading

Cuba Increases Control over Its Doctors / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

cuban doctorsThe government is trying, among other measures, to curb hiring of its professionals by foreign clinics

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 20 April 2015 — The exodus of Cuban health professional does not stop, and the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) apparently has decided to act to counter a phenomenon that is damaging domestic medical services but much more the country’s income.

A document attributed to the senior management of MINSAP, adopted in a meeting held in mid-March of this year, has been making the rounds in the e-mail of health professionals in which the sector’s new policy is expressed. This event was confirmed to CubaNet by an official from the Provincial Management of Public Health in Guantanamo, whose identity we do not reveal for obvious reasons. Continue reading

The Disparagement of Our Heroes Should End / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, 24 April 2015 — The photos of Cuban President Raúl Castro conversing with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama during the Seventh Summit of the Americas are still appearing on the principal pages of the world’s most important newspapers.

Images of Cuban volunteers who, risking their lives, went to fight the fatal Ebola virus in Africa, those who help disaster victims in Haiti and other places, i.e. Brazil, Pakistan, Chile, etc., have also been given prime placement in the broadcast media and the most prestigious news agencies.

In Panama, during the forums of the Seventh Summit of the Americas, Cuban men and women of the State-sponsored civil society also appeared on the front pages of every known communication medium in the world. Continue reading

European Parliament Members call for EU mediation to release Cuban artists from prison / 14ymedio

The vice president of the Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party in the European Parliament, Pavel Telicka. (European Democratic Party)

The vice president of the Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party in the European Parliament, Pavel Telicka. (European Democratic Party)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 April 2015 — The vice presidents of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party of the European Parliament, Fernando Maura and Pavel Telicka, have asked the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini, to intervene with the Havana Government for the release from prison of Angel Santiesteban and Danilo Maldonado. In a letter to Mogherini, signed by some thirty Eurodeputies, they also call for an end to the “prolonged confinement” of Tania Bruguera.

In a letter released this Friday, the Eurodeputies ask Mogherini to mediate for the withdrawal of the charges for “counterrevolutionary activities” against the regime opponent Antonio Rodiles and his partner Ailer Gonzalez. Continue reading

In defense of our doctors / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 23 April 2015 — Last night while watching the images of the homecoming of the doctors who participated in the fight against Ebola in Africa I was very excited. I believe that every man or woman in the world who decides to run these risks to save the lives of unknown human beings thousands of miles away deserves total respect and admiration. In my own family there are examples of this.

They are completely mistaken, however, those who think that, because of having different ideas, wanting Internet for everyone, along with real wages and basic freedoms, the opposition is against this solidarity or doesn’t recognize the courage and heroism of our physicians. Nothing is further from the truth. Continue reading

The Revolution and its Functional Illiterates / Diario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Havana, 23 April 2015 — According to a close friend, no fewer than half of the graduates of Cuban universities during the last 50 years, have been graduated in vain.”

Such an assertion might be considered distorted and extremist, but the reality outweighs the data that continue to have no place in the official press nor in the other spaces controlled by the State-Party.

From the start, what counted was massiveness. The only insurmountable barrier to higher education is ideological divergences. The slogan about the university being “only for revolutionaries” is kept as current as on the first day it was proclaimed from the platforms and acclaimed by the multitudes. Continue reading

Demographic Enigma / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 April 2015 — The National Electoral Commission recently informed us that 63,441 young people had turned 16 since the previous elections in 2012, which gave them the right to vote on Sunday. However, demographic estimates made in 2006 by the government projected that by 2015, the country would have 275,389 young people aged 17 to 18 years. Where are the 211,948 missing young people?

According to the calculations of the Center for Population Studies, in 2015 Cuba has 138,866 18-year-olds, and 136,523 17-year-olds, totaling 275,389 young people in this age group. That Projected population for Cuba for the period between 2007 and 2015 was published nine years ago. Continue reading