The National Council of the Performing Arts under Scrutiny / Juan Juan Almeida

Performance in Cuba

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 June 2017 — Another legal trial is threatening the invulnerability of the Ministry of Culture. This time the prosecutorial gaze is focused on officials at the National Council of the Performing Arts (CNAE) while overlooking the culpability of Cuban leaders who, were they to fall, would make too big a noise.

The Cuban government maintains a “zero tolerance” policy against any form of human trafficking or related crimes. Its measures are intended to enhance prevention, confront offenders and severely punish those found guilty. But the business is lucrative, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Very conservative estimates indicate that more than 5,000 Cubans have emigrated legally using fraudulent documents procured for them by CNAE officials.

“The investigation is snowballing. After interviewing each new witness, investigators have to expand the probe,” says a source close to the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cuba.

“According to our documents, there are several ongoing investigations. On the one hand, those presumed guilty remain silent for fear of reprisals. On the other hand, the victims being questioned — people willing to assist in the investigation — allege they consented to bribery by CNAE officials in order to emigrate safely. Everything points to the government as the sole culprit because it has not been able to provide them with the opportunity to have a decent life or a decent job.”

“Passing judgement should not be a political issue and we aren’t even at that stage yet. The question is: Did the people who committed these crimes do so in every case with the consent and for the benefit of those affected? Does it make sense to continue exploring the causes of the problem when we all know what the solution is? Whom does it harm? The law will have to wait but I imagine that in the end the case will be dismissed.”

Founded on April 1, 1989, the National Council of the Performing Arts is a legally recognized, financially independent cultural institution whose mission is to promote the development of theater, dance, pantomime, humor and the circus. All these categories were used as a ruse by non-artists to escape the fiefdom. For the time being, CNEA’s practice of issuing exit visas is “on hold” and the documents are in the possession of the state prosecutor after being seized as evidence.

Some members of the council have been temporarily suspended from their jobs. All of them are under investigation, accused of issuing visas and emigration documents to people with no formal connection to the institution who paid 90 to 300 CUC to secure a safe and guaranteed escape.

A former employee of the Ministry of the Interior — someone fired for political reasons who is now self-employed — notes with no small degree of irony, “Investigators are doing everything possible to keep news like this away from people like you because the consequences could be wide ranging.”