Corruption in Cuba

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The 2013 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Cuba 63rd out of 177 countries, tied with Ghana and Saudi Arabia,[1] and therefore lower than most of the other countries in the Caribbean and Central America, but higher than most of the countries in the Western world.

The state ownership has contributed to rampant corruption. The book Corruption in Cuba says that "As in other former socialist countries, when given opportunity, few citizens hesitate to steal from the government. Since the bulk of the productive resources are owned and managed by the state and the vast majority of Cubans work for state-owned enterprises, these petty crimes are widespread".[2]

Bribes are widespread. To get medical care, patients pay bribes. Musicians regularly pay bribes to be able to perform on tourist areas, where they can earn convertible currency.[3] A bicycle taxi license is reported to cost $150 in bribes.[4]


Twentieth century[edit]

In 1942, the British Foreign Office reported that the U.S. State Department was "very worried" about corruption under President Fulgencio Batista, describing the problem as "endemic" and exceeding "anything which had gone on previously." Batista refused U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's offer to send experts to help reform the Cuban Civil Service.[5]

Mauricio Augusto Font and Alfonso Quiroz, authors of The Cuban Republic and José Martí, say that corruption pervaded public life under the administrations of Presidents Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío. Senator Eduardo Chibás dedicated himself to exposing corruption in the Cuban government, and formed the Partido Ortodoxo in 1947 to further this aim.[6]


Sergio Diaz-Briquets and Jorge F. Pérez-López, in the book Corruption in Cuba, argue that the government of Fidel and Raul Castro institutionalized corruption with government monopolies, cronyism, and lack of accountability.[7] High-ranking members of the Cuban nomenklatura and the military enjoy privileges unavailable to ordinary citizens.[7] The Cuban nomenklatura is also referred to as pinchos, pinchos grandes or mayimbes.[8]

In 2001, the Cuban Government set up a ministry to investigate corruption and improve efficiency in the Cuban economy. A BBC news article stated that foreign businessmen in Cuba said levels of corruption were lower than in most other countries in Latin America.[9] BBC says that "Inspectors went to thousands of state-run enterprises and consistently found customers being short-changed. The offences included beer mugs being only partially filled, taxi rides being charged at almost five times the going rate, government price lists being hidden, even shoe repairers charging vastly inflated rates."[10]

Under the existing system, even the most basic anticorruption pillars have been eroded. To the extent they are effective, moral and ethical guidelines in most societies always have acted as deterrents against malfeasance. Whatever residual effects moral deterrents can have in Cuba following nearly 43 years of socialist rule are not likely to be strong. Disregard for the rule of law regarding property rights began with the confiscation of privately owned assets in 1959 and the early 1960s. Next came four decades of routine expropriation of the personal property of all permanent emigrants. These two developments alone, it could be argued, have given rise to social attitudes that condone – in Cuba’s environment of scarcity – taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune and assets so long as it is for personal benefit. Added to this is the widespread petty (administrative) corruption that pervades Cuban society, mostly because of the nature of the economic system and the scarcity of goods and services it has created. —  Diaz-Briquets & Pérez-López : A transparency/accountability framework for combating corruption in post-Castro Cuba
- Cuban Transition Project, University of Miami [11]


Main article: Sociolismo

Sociolismo is the informal term used in Cuba to describe the reciprocal exchange of favors by individuals, usually relating to circumventing bureaucratic restrictions or obtaining hard-to-find goods. It comes from the Spanish word socio which means business partner or buddy, and is a pun on socialismo, the Spanish term for socialism. It is analogous to the blat of the Soviet Union. It is a form of corruption in Cuba.[7]

Transparency International[edit]

Cuba scored 4.3 for perceived corruption in Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rates countries from 0 ("highly corrupt") to 10 ("highly clean"), reflecting perceived levels of corruption. Cuba scored below some Caribbean island nations such as Saint Lucia (7.1) and Barbados (7.0) and some Latin American nations such as Chile (6.9) and Uruguay (6.9), but above most other Latin American nations, such as El Salvador (3.9), Colombia (3.8) and Mexico (3.6) and Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago (3.6) and Jamaica (3.1).[12] Cuba has been assessed by the CPI since 2003, with scores ranging from 3.7 to 4.6.[13]


  1. ^ "Corruption Perceptions Index 2013". Transparency International. 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Sergio Díaz-Briquets; Jorge F. Pérez-López. Corruption in Cuba. p. 18. 
  3. ^ Sergio Díaz-Briquets; Jorge F. Pérez-López. Corruption in Cuba. p. 136. 
  4. ^ "Cuba's economy rife with corruption". St. Petersburg Times. January 15, 2007. 
  5. ^ Rovner, Eduardo Sáenz (2009). The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking, Smuggling, and Gambling in Cuba from the 1920s to the Revolution. Translated by Russ Davidson. UNC Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-8078-3175-1. 
  6. ^ Font, Mauricio Augusto; Alfonso W. Quiroz (2006). The Cuban Republic and José Martí: Reception and use of a national symbol. Lexington Books. p. 60. ISBN 0-7391-1225-2. 
  7. ^ a b c Sergio Diaz-Briquets; Jorge F. Pérez-López. Corruption in Cuba. 
  8. ^ Jorge F. Pérez-López. "Corruption in the Cuban transition" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Schweimler, Daniel (May 4, 2001). "Cuba's anti-corruption ministry". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Cuba businesses 'cheat clients'". BBC News. October 2, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  11. ^ "A transparency/accountability framework for combating corruption in post-Castro Cuba" (PDF). 
  12. ^ Lambsdorff, J. Graf (2009). "Corruption Perceptions Index 2008". Transparency International. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
  13. ^ "TI Corruption Perceptions Index". Transparency International. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
A world map of the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International