Cycles of bureaucratic corruption in nineteenth-century Cuba evolved according to institutional conditions shaped by interest groups, financial needs, imperatives of colonial governance, and internal conflicts and war. Corrupt gain inimical to general public interest was not a consequence of cultural constants, but of unreconstructed institutional flaws and weaknesses. The risks of engaging in bureaucratic corruption diminished under the systematic condoning of administrative faults, collusive allowance of illegal slave trafficking, and a code of illegal rewards expected by loyalist officials opposing colonial reform. Despite some few anti-corruption initiatives, the prosecution and punishment of corrupt officials was lax. The implicit, yet significant, financial, institutional and political costs of corruption contributed to the demise of Spanish imperial dominion over Cuba and left a damaging burden and legacy for Cuban civil society.