A Smoky Exploit / Regina Coyula #Cuba

During these final days of the year the chatter in my neighborhood has focused on a woman who traded up from a nice little house to a gorgeous residence on a corner lot. This neighbor spared no expense in order to create the home she wanted. An array of private and state-owned trucks delivered material to the site where a building team repaired and remodeled the home over the course of more than a year, following the owner’s instructions. Residents of Nuevo Vedado are used to seeing nice houses—ones that are in good repair and well-maintained—but they were astonished by the magnitude of this project. When they told me about it and I later saw the house, all I could say was, “They are waiting for her to finish it so they can seize it.”

I do not know if the house was ever completed, but the owner was fired from her job. It is rumored that she is facing investigation at a farm called “La Campana,” which I believe is the place where corruption cases are handled. The police conducted a search and filmed the entire house, but the neighbors found out, to their great surprise, that the remodelling project was not the cause but a consequence. It seems the owner, who was recently fired as director of a cigar factory, is under investigation for matters related to the factory’s output.

Since November we have known about the detention of the company’s general manager related to the shipment of contraband cigars to Europe. I won’t deny that I immediately thought of my neighbor, the director of that same company. For a long time she emerged unscathed after anonymous and on-the-record accusations were made by her own workers.

I understand she was very confrontational, and was even offered the directorship of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution to which she belonged. She also active in the Cuban Communist Party and cracked the whip at her workplace. I am not surprised. Someone told me it was a shame what had happened—it was a way of personally profiting by robbing the state because, if these managers are harming anyone, it is their employer.

The neighbor has not been tried and remains innocent until proven guilty. But I am not happy about this. Corruption depletes my county’s patrimony and that of all its citizens. Anyone who has followed the recent history of Russia and the other Soviet republics will know that many of the USSR’s now-discredited company managers shielded themselves as they set about getting rich. With of all their stolen gains, they are now rich and powerful businessmen, mafiosi or both. When it comes to the multi-million dollar tobacco industry, it seems that robbery is practiced on a grand scale.

Regina Coyula

December 25 2012