Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cuban anti-corruption drive nets cronies

Cuban anti-corruption drive nets cronies
Published: Sept. 23, 2011 at 3:42 PM

HAVANA, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- A Cuban campaign against corruption in the
government's higher echelons is in full swing but with results not
entirely as anticipated by President Raul Castro's administration.

Government corruption, rated by analysts as a hallmark of single-party
regimes with minimal public accountability, has bedeviled Cuba through
the better part of authoritarian rule by the Castro brothers.

Only recently has the issue been discussed in the state-controlled media
in response to Castro's economic reforms.

A cautious approach toward a market economy of sorts has led to its own
dynamic of cronyism and favoritism but the government's grudging
concession to an ideological shift has meant some airing of long-held
public grievances over irregular practices by state sector entities,
including the civil service.

The latest media coverage in Cuba directed most criticism at the civil
service, sparing Communist Party officials, indicating limitations in
the freedom granted editors and journalists paid mainly by the state.

The media singled out "corrupter" and "scoundrels" in the service that
put at risk Cuba's successful march toward socialism -- reinforcement of
the government line that Cuba will stay on course as a socialist economy
even as it repackages it with borrowings from a market economy.

The transition is likened by analysts to China's early experimentation,
under post-Mao leader Deng Xiao-ping, with a communist economic model
refashioned as "socialist capitalism."

Julio Cesar Diaz Garrandes, reported to be the boyfriend of Raul
Castro's youngest daughter Nilda and a former Miami resident, was among
those arrested on suspicion of corruption, Juventud Rebelde youth
newspaper said.

Diaz Garrandes was being held in an interrogation center for three
months, El Nuevo Herald newspaper said.

Juventud Rebelde lashed out at government officials who enriched
themselves "with resources that belong to the Cuban people and are so
dear for a poor country oppressed by the implacable imperial lash." This
was a reference to the continuing U.S. sanctions on the island country,
in force since 1960 and extended this month to Sept. 14, 2012.

The embargo came into force after Cuba nationalized the properties of
U.S. citizens and corporations. Under Castro's thinly disguised reforms,
the embargo is unlikely to restrain an expected surge in bilateral
trade, which is booming despite the party rhetoric in the media.

The linkage to "implacable imperial lash" cited by Juventud Rebelde is
the government's way of giving the anti-corruption movement a
full-throated revolutionary character, analysts said.

Reports of the arrests of people close to the Castro elite are rare and
a potential embarrassment, especially since the government has been
secretly conducting trials and imprisonments of the allegedly corrupt
since Castro launched the campaign in 2008.

Juventud Rebelde attacked "opulent speculators" -- a reference to
strategically placed individuals in government and party ranks who are
seen to be benefiting from the economic shift, in the style of
post-communism Russia and former Eastern Bloc nations of Europe.

Financial scandals have hit Cuba's aviation, cigar and
telecommunications industries and the nickel mining sector. A number of
junior ministers are among those removed from government posts, arrested
and known to be under interrogation or facing trial.

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