Caridad could not find Sancti Spíritus on a map, the province where the company run by the Chilean, Max Marambio, is located, but she is aware of all the rumors about its closing and the corruption scandals. She has learned to decipher the omissions of the press and to read, in the repetition of certain topics, an attempt to cover up others more interesting. So she is not content with the sugar-coated pill offered by the national news. For this 40-year-old Havana woman, the rumors on the street in the last weeks have caused her to dust off an old saying she stubbornly repeats: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Just the name of the Río Zaza factory reverberates in conversations, although the newspaper Granma only mentioned the investigation in a brief note about the death of its general manager, Roberto Baudrand.
In the journalism schools they should teach certain lessons. One of them – which we Cubans have learned forcefully reading between the lines – is that hiding a story intensifies the interest in it and leads people to fantasize and speculate about the details. While they call us to attend acts of Revolutionary reaffirmation and to condemn the media campaign against Cuba – from which they have not published a single document – everyone assumes there must be something big that they want to cover up with so much noise. The delay in confirming that something happened in this joint-venture company has made the foreign press, the independent journalists and the bloggers grab the topic from the hands of the controlled official reporters. They are called on to sing of the glories, not to reveal the trash swept under the rug.
Caridad has been right about the wisps of smoke, which have become a roaring fire. Something quite fetid is hidden behind the silence and distraction. It smells like greenbacks, embezzlement, and has the stench of corruption, no longer localized in one place but rather endemic to the system. The army of accountants that will be unveiled in the coming days will not be able to stop the bleeding. They would need as many more to control the inspectors, to monitor the monitors, to supervise the supervisors. The cloud of smoke billowing from this fire is already huge, and we can all see it behind the slogans.