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The Cuban postal service has received a deluge of letters and packages in recent years.
The sharp increase has its origin in measures taken inside and outside the country. On the one hand, restrictions established by the Bush administration against Cuba in 2005; on the other, new regulations issued by Cuban Customs, which allows the entrance of computer components, electronic devices and other specified items.

Added to this is the large number of foreign scholarship students studying in Cuba and of tens of thousands of Cuban collaborators abroad. For the postal service the increasing arrival of packages is a real challenge.

Granma newspaper continually receives letters, telephone calls or E-mail messages with complaints related to the postal service. These include missing items in packages, opened letters, late delivery of newspapers to subscribers and a lack of cash at local postal offices to make payments on money wires.

The postal services international exchange offices first vice-president, Eliecer Blanco, explained that providing mail security includes two main aspects: investment and the human factor. With regard to the first, he assured that they are working hard to materialize projects aimed at improving organization.

The second one, he stressed, is essential. "We are currently evaluating the issue with Aero Varadero (the mail cargo company with which we process the customers claims to the airlines), TRASVAL (the main transport contractor for the postal service) and with Postal Customs, to guarantee that all parties fulfill their obligations."

Blanco said that in the delivery process from sender to recipient the final movement corresponds to the Post Office, ultimately responsible for losses and plundering of mail. However, he noted that external entities participate in this process: "If we dont organize ourselves and each individual doesnt fulfill his or her obligations, problems are created. This leads us to the adoption of technical and organizational measures."

He said some of the answers include an assessment of the flow from air terminals to Post Office units to minimize the time the mail is at these facilities; simplification of customs processes to speed up reception and distribution; automation of the process, and reaching agreement with the Astro Bus Co. for transporting postal cargo since the vehicles currently used to carry out that service are insufficient.


A tour of the areas of the Postal Service International Exchange office, in charge of sending and receiving mail to and from abroad, showed the conditions under which part of the postal cargo arrives.

After breaking the seal of origin and opening a bale, loose items that came from two different packages are scattered. Doubt prevails: What belonged to which? Was there something missing?

A few meters away from the bale, a worker was sealing a plastic bag. Inside was a letter, accompanied by a Postal Office certificate specifying that it had arrived to the country "with problems." She explained that numerous letters are received opened or deteriorated, despite coming inside bags with security seals.

For us, affirmed the entitys manager, Andres Echemendía, the most important thing is not where the crime occurred "the place of origin, the airport, during transportation, or here", but to eliminate such crime, which mars the image of Cubas Postal Service.

In 2007, the office detected 22 criminal cases involving 25 workers, and informed the authorities. Thirty-seven consignments were involved and only 17 were recovered.

During that period, the Postal Service received more than 5,000 complaints from foreign sources. The responsibility of the Cuban entity was proved in a little over 400 cases and the corresponding compensation paid.

More than 700 complaints came from the population for different reasons including: package claims, deliveries outside of the established terms, and theft. The latter occurred essentially at the place of origin, above all when consignments go through a third country, which increases handling and favors theft.

The Postal Service opens a file for each claim, with the purpose of defining responsibilities, to apply disciplinary measures and to compensate clients if the Cuban entitys responsibility is proven. In other cases, clients are told to file their claim in the country where their consignments came from.


Audits recently carried out at some postal units reflected bookkeeping deficiencies and inadequacies in their services, explained Cuba Postal Service president, Claribel Hernandez.

In Havana, for example, theres a deficit of 133 mail deliverers (from a staff of more than 600). At present, she indicated, some of them have to attend three neighborhoods. Sometimes, its 7:00 p.m. and they havent concluded their deliveries, hence the complaints received for newspapers being delivered late or telephone bills that didnt arrive on time.

With regard to wiring money via the postal offices, Hernandez said the situation has been assessed based on the populations complaints of a lack of money at post offices to carry out payments and the endless lines due to the services slow pace. She said the situation will improve soon with the installation of 2,000 new computers at the countrys main units, which will facilitate faster and more accurate information on the delivery or return of money wires, and the reasons for their delay.

Hernandez said that a contract is about to be signed with the bank related to the administration of money wires "which move around 44 million pesos (just under 2 million US dollars) each month. Moreover, she said they are putting organizational measures into practice to assure that the post offices have the amount of money necessary to carry out payments.

Weve defined our problems, stated Hernandez. Some of them require investments, like the repairing of post office units "most of them with a high degree of deterioration", the improvement of the staffs labor conditions, and their training needs. Another priority is the restoration of more than 700 mailboxes and the purchasing of a similar amount, as well as the recovering of post office boxes.

Others problems like the lack of stamps at a given unit, are caused by lack of discipline, organization and foresight, and administrators must take responsibility for that.

In conclusion, theres a series of measures being aimed at reverting the current irregularities in the postal system. Success will depend to a large degree on greater demands for efficiency, and on the ethical behavior of workers and administrators in their respective posts.


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