11 03 2011


Granma, one of the two Cuban daily newspapers, normally only contains eight pages. However, every Friday there is a bumper edition, including two pages devoted to letters from readers, entitled “Cartas a la direccion” (letters to the management).

These give ordinary people an opportunity to vent their frustrations about their dissatisfaction with either matters pertaining to their employment, or to the services provided (or not provided) by official bodies. They give an insight into the everyday difficulties faced by Cuban people due to bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption. The fact that they are published shows that these problems are not being swept under the carpet, but these problems are deep-rooted and will not be easy to resolve.

Amongst the letters in last week’s paper are the following:

An agricultural co-operative of 27 workers in Mayari, in the province of Holguin, have written to complain that they have not been paid for the last two and a half months. This is due to a debt incurred by the previous administrator, which has still not been paid. The workers have been given various dates when payment would be made, but have still not received the outstanding sums. They are continuing to produce their crops of lettuce, tomatoes and cabbages, amongst others, but want to know when they will be paid.

A reader complains that in his district of Marianao, in Havana, a large tree was uprooted in a hurricane six years ago, breaking up the pavement for a stretch of approximately 10 metres. The result has been that rubbish accumulates in the resulting holes that attract rats, cockroaches and flies. Antisocial behaviour has added to the problem, but the cause is the failure to repair the pavement. The reader wishes to praise the street cleaners, who try their best to keep the area clean.

A recent graduate from the University of Information Sciences has been placed with the Ministry of Public Health in Holguin province and has been working for the last six months in a polyclinic, in a post not suited to her training and ability. She wants to know if she can change her post.

A customer went to a pharmacy at 2.25pm, to find a queue and only one assistant at the counter. Behind the dividing wall were four or five other workers in pharmacists’ uniforms. At 3pm another assistant emerged, but her pen would not work, so she went off to look for another. He finally made a purchase at 3.20. During the 55 minute wait the telephone rang continually, but nobody answered it. On the wall was a sign saying that all of their efforts would be devoted to excellence in the provision of their service. The writer thinks that the pharmaceutical company should honour the spirit of the sign. The population deserve it.

Another writer complains about bureaucracy in the post office. He needed to send a postal order for 960 pesos, but the maximum postal order is for 300. Therefore he needed to send four. On 11th February he sent the four. Eight days later he was told that three had arrived. He went to the post office in Santiago to ask for an explanation, but as of 2nd March had not received a reply. He asks rhetorically; “Is this efficiency?”

In Contramaestra, in the province of Santiago, a reader went to the only point of sale to buy three tubes of toothpaste. When he got home he found that the seals were missing and that the tubes were half empty but had been made to look full. He returned to the shop and was told by the manager that the assistants should have been informed that the products had been modified to vary the contents. He was given new, sealed tubes. He wants to know: how many others were given such products? Most people in Contramaestre are humble peasants. Who will respond for the damage to the economy caused by such acts? He concludes that the people need protection from those robbing and causing damage.

There is a popular saying in Cuba: “no es facil” (it’s not easy). This is often a good description of people’s day to day experiences.



One response

13 04 2011

[…] in March I reported on the weekly letter of complaints published in the daily newspaper Granma (here). One of the complaints that I outlined also appeared as a letter in the other Cuban daily paper, […]

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