ROOTS OF CORRUPTION
The roots of administrative corruption in Cuba can be traced back to political, institutional, administrative and rule-of-law practices during four centuries of Spanish colonial rule. These institutionally and culturally determined practices were reinforced by political and economic developments on the island during the Republic (1902–1958). They were later greatly transformed by the 1959 Revolution but persisted, taking new forms under different ideological and institutional premises, only to reemerge in pre-revolutionary incarnations following the 1989 socialist bloc collapse. As a result, traditional forms of corruption coexist in contemporary Cuba with equally pernicious forms of corruption that are typical of countries with centrally planned economies or transitioning from command to market economies, creating a complex national landscape of corruption. The juxtaposition of these three corruption trends (traditional, socialist, and transitional) is ominous and portends a very challenging transition scenario for Cuba. Regardless of the circumstances under which the long-awaited Cuban transition materializes, it will likely be accompanied at every step of the way by the specter of corruption.
This chapter provides a historical overview of the nature and extent of corruption in the country before 1959, pinpointing connections that link corrupt practices of the past with contemporary ones discussed in Chapters 4 and 5. This historical perspective also draws attention to the likelihood that corrupt practices of long ago will reappear once the transition gets under way—barring a miraculous economic recovery sweeping enough to offset the historical propensity of many Cubans to bend rules in the pursuit of self-interest or the average Cuban’s proclivity to seek a minimum of economic security under the umbrella of the state. Awareness of these historical continuities is essential to understand the current and prospective nature of corruption in Cuba and the policy levers that might be available to minimize it. As we consider them, we are inevitably