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Complaints and Demands at the Cuban Crossroads

The fact that the Constitution provides for the population's right to file complaints does not guarantee that this right will actually be honored in Cuba. Why is the regime insisting on defending it now?

A line in front of a store in Havana.
A line in front of a store in Havana. Diario de Cuba

The issue of complaints and requests from citizens lodged with the Cuban government is of some interest, on the one hand, because the population’s discontent is expressed through channels other than the formal ones that can be used for this purpose; and on the other, because its citizens demonstrate an absolute distrust, and even fear, of expressing their complaints and making demands of the powerful Cuban communist regime, from which they expect any manner of repressive responses.

In any other country in the world, these circumstances do not arise. In fact, complaint management is a powerful instrument of consumer-centric marketing strategies, which succeed at the best-run, global companies. In Cuba, though the communist Constitution of 2019 speaks of a "socialist state of law," the application of these managerial principles to state sector activity bears little relation to actual citizen action in search of official responses to their demands. Under the Cuban communist model, the State is always right.

An anomalous situation, thus, arises, in which people have the right to address complaints and petitions to the regime's authorities, who are "obliged to process them and provide timely, pertinent and well-founded answers by the deadline and according to the procedure established by law," but citizens distrust this type of option and rarely use the existing channels, despite the fact that the communist Constitution calls them "citizen rights." And this situation does not seem to have an easy solution.

The fact that the Constitution provides for the people's complaints does not guarantee that this precept will actually be honored with the same rigor and quality by all the nation’s administrative and state authorities, where there is still behavior described, even by the state press, as "stalling, deliberate obstacles, excessive delays in procedures, and superficial and unconvincing answers, when they take are given."

Taking into account this situation, the communists aspire for the state sector to attend to the people’s demands, and, transcending "adequate premises, good service, and strict statistical control, it should listen, explain, offer arguments to the people, and take on serious commitments, defining priorities, following up on matters, speeding up procedures and solving problems." This is certainly a novel paradigm, light years beyond what has been happening in Cuba for decades. Under the Cuban communist regime, accountability is conspicuously absent.

The omnipresent State, perhaps thinking of another country, states that, if everything worked this way, then the number of people who turn to the higher level of the Party and the Government, or to the mass media, as an instrument to vent their dissatisfaction with the treatment they have received by previous administrations, would be nil. It would be good to know how many people behave this way in Cuba, as it may be surprising.

The state press admits that Cubans "live trapped in a network of bureaucracy, idleness, corruption at the intermediate layers, difficulties and obstacles of all kinds that, far from dissipating with the passage of time, have been increasing." But they know that this network is rooted in the economic model of central planning and intervention, compounded by an absence of property and market rights, which prevent free choice, such that there is no real possibility of doing something in defense of their interests.

According to the same source, the analyses carried out at different administrative levels of the regime with the highest number of complaints from the population reflect that their activity "does not usually have the support or the priority it requires, and, instead, ends up bogged down by complex bureaucratic processes, dominated by negligence and bad procedures installed at organizations."

In view of this situation, the regime has declared its concern over the "major damage" that "is done to the credibility of entities when, in order to resolve a certain situation, some administrators and officials make promises, assume commitments, or set deadlines that they themselves do not meet, with an attitude clearly lacking in rigor."

Communists, instead of analyzing why these behaviors occur and identifying the profound reasons for them, are convinced that the problems must be solved with the imposition of radical changes in forms of communication and action; in other words, greater demands made of "those who hide behind a lack of resources in order not to give clear answers to citizens' demands" —as if resources abounded, not posing the usual problems for the population.

Behind this approach to the problem, whose solution seems complicated, the authorities focus on the cracks and gaps present in some administrative systems, where they observe that officials and civil servants have not yet internalized the fact that meeting the needs of citizens is their main social mission. But the question is: why would anyone internalize anything if they know that their life, their work, their pay, and their social relations will remain the same, or even worse?

Those who see that their professional lives depend on political decisions made by authorities far from their areas of influence, and often, or almost always, out of touch with reality, have little interest in motivating themselves in anything. Rather, it seems that the regime is pondering ways to dismiss officials who do not comply with its directives, as perhaps this is the easiest way to sever heads and replace them with other, more loyal ones. The hunt may have begun, bound to lead to even fewer reasons for accountability.

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