Cuba’s Ration Stores are the Target of Increased Theft

By Rumi Samuel Published on August 02, 2023
Cuba’s Ration Stores are the Target of Increased Theft

Ten bodegas (ration stores) in the province of Sancti Spíritus have suffered violent robberies. At the same time, in another five – in addition to a food processing center – corruption cases have been detected so far this year. The stolen products affected the sale of basic products to the population, whose complaints led to inventories and audits, after which the crimes came to light.

The thieves managed to enter the bodegas by breaking doors, ceilings and windows, Ariel Fernandez, director of the Commerce business group in the province, told the local press. Pojabo – a town to the southwest of the provincial capital – Yaguajay, La Sierpe and two areas of Trinidad – Limones Cantero and Condado – have been the most affected by the crimes.

The thieves are targeting, above all, food: rice, grains, sugar, coffee, oil, meat and other supplies that depend on the production of each municipality. At the moment, the Police have only captured three of the criminals involved.

Regarding the corruption of the Commerce workers themselves, Fernandez was blunt: “Being fired from the entity is applied as a measure,” he assured. In addition, managers who failed to control inventories strictly were forced to repay the missing money. Others face proceedings for “embezzlement of basic products for the people,” he said.

The serious “lack of control and ethics of the civil servants who were in charge of the entities” are the actual cause of the crimes, lamented the official, who did not give more details about the robberies to the local press.

During the accountability sessions of the Cuban Parliament, last July, the Minister of Internal Commerce, Betsy Díaz Velazquez, revealed that 361 bodegas had been broken into to commit robberies between January and May 2023. The official explained that the criminals overwhelmingly seek rice, beans, powdered milk, soap and cigarettes, which are then resold in the informal market where rice – she exemplified – already reaches up to 200 pesos per pound.

In the same meeting, the Camagüeyan deputy Lurdelis Cardenas denounced that in each crime, there is usually a component linked to corruption, which facilitates theft. However, at the local level, the accomplices are sanctioned by being transferred to another position, “moving the problem from place to place” and generating discontent in the population.

The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, for its part, considered the situation one of “great complexity” and pointed out that the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office did not have enough personnel to process all criminal acts with the required efficiency and speed.

Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Court, mentioned that drug trafficking, theft and slaughter of cattle, tax evasion, theft of state assets, and family and gender violence were also part of the criminal panorama on the island.

Trying to impress with numbers without context, he confirmed that 1,273 people were tested for illegal cattle slaughter, 360 for crimes associated with drugs, 249 for embezzlement, 4,666 for crimes against property, 52 for unlawful economic activity, and 154 for speculation and hoarding.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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