Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Forget about Murillo"

Sluggish bureaucrats and service workers are not having an easy time in Granma’s letters to the editor columns.

Take the case of Caridad Collazo Chaviano, a laid-off worker who wants to get a license to provide child care in her home. For that line of work (and others such as food preparation and service) she needs a health inspection as part of her license application. She wrote to Granma to complain that her request for an inspection was roundly ignored for four weeks. She noted that she was laid off from her job, needed to start her business, and feared that she was losing potential customers. Her letter was published December 24, 2010.

A response from Havana’s second-ranking health official was published January 28, 2011. An investigation assigned responsibility for Collazo’s mistreatment; one official was demoted and two others disciplined. Collazo’s prospective place of business was inspected and she proceeded with her license application.

Another example: a consumer complains about very sluggish service at a local pharmacy, and an investigation results in two firings and a demotion. This link takes you to the letter and response.

Then there’s a January 21 letter from one G. Gomez Fuentes, who claims that local officials in his town, Moa, were adding arbitrary requirements to the process of applying for a business license. He was required to provide an extra passport-type photo, a letter affirming that he is retired, and a tax stamp on that letter at the cost of 30 pesos. He wrote:

“I followed all the debates in the National Assembly closely, including the statements of compañero Murillo Jorge [the Minister of Economy] and compañera Minister of Finance and Prices, as well as the statements of our President compañero Raul Castro, and at no moment was there mention of these requirements of letters, an extra photo, or least of all this extra 30 pesos worth of tax stamps. Also, I asked the compañera [in the local office] if she was aware of what compañero Murillo [the Minister of Economy] had said and her response was that I should forget about Murillo.”

Granma has not published a response to Gomez’ letter from an official, but on January 29, 2011 it did print an opinion essay by Feliz Lopez on the dead weight of bureaucracy in Cuba. The “forget about Murillo” comment, he wrote, is “a sort of x-ray of a widespread state of mind that ignores legal norms, and at the same time reflects the damage that certain Cuban bureaucrats are causing” to the process of “updating the Cuban economic model.” That process, he writes, “must be accompanied by a change of mentality.” He quotes a letter-writer who asserts: “We have to continue uncovering those pessimists and opportunists whose only concern is for where they can make out the best, and proceed to replace them with capable men who want to do things well.”

Granma’s letters to the editor run every Friday along with responses from officials to issues raised by letter-writers. In March 2009 the editors noted that during the first year of this feature, they had received more 3,072 letters and 3,292 e-mails, compared to 468 letters in the previous 12 months.

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