We don’t really know the exact scale of the corruption in Cuba. Figures on corruption aren’t published and most cases punishable by law aren’t published by pro-government media. We only know about the ones which are in the government’s political or strategic interest, which circulate on cell phones or by well-known “gossip”.
Nevertheless, we can deduce how deeply this evil has rooted itself in our country. If a leader or official earns less than 1500 Cuban pesos (60 CUC) and doesn’t have any other source of income, how can they keep up a lifestyle as if they were earning 500 or 1000 CUC?; how do female leaders and workers’ pay for their beauty treatments if they cost more per month than their wages?
It’s incredible but true. Very few wages can afford to buy the most regular pair of shoes. Technically-speaking, if someone who works for the State is dressing well and wearing decent shoes, and is eating after the 10th of the month, then they are involved in crime or receives family remittances from abroad.
There are more “big shots” in the capital than in the provinces which is why we can see more corruption and there are more stories about the bourgeois lifestyle of Party leaders and their offspring. Employees at good restaurants and hotels witness their large expenses (as a family or with friends a lot of the time) billed to the State or with their wads of hard currency and they talk about it on the street. We also know about private businesses and their successful ventures who are immune to being harassed by inspectors and government officials of course, who normally suck the rest dry or stop them in their tracks.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Cuban workers (maybe 99.9%) steal something from their workplace to make up their wages, which isn’t enough even in the best of cases. When there isn’t anything tangible and valuable to take, then time is stolen and that time is used to resolve something that money can’t, like in an alternative business for example. And to top off the list, there’s also “favoritism” and influence peddling, which come in the form of benefits.
The Cuban system is dysfunctional and that’s why it survives on the foundations of illegal activity and corruption. Marxism-Leninism is the official ideology, but it’s really “hypocrisy”. The need to steal and be corrupt was made evident with Fidel’s idea (when he completely failed to recognize the country’s reality) of placing “Party duos” to check and watch over how things are run. It was chaos: nothing worked, people suffered great shortages and the country came to a standstill. A few months later, they had to remove them and they have never done this again.
For this political, economic and social anomaly to work, at least basically, we have to let managers live off of influence peddling because otherwise, nobody would be a manager because the wages aren’t encouraging. And if workers can’t “struggle”, nobody would work at state-run companies. When you’re offered a job, people don’t ask how much you earn but how much can you “struggle” there?