Juan Juan Almeida, 24 November 2015 — Just as the proceedings surpassed the scandalous total of 42 people indicted, the General Vice-Prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba, Carlos Raúl Concepción Rangel, imposed a gag order on the case and hid it underneath the trite mantle of “secret character,” because — according to sources in the Prosecutor’s office — he’s expecting the number of those involved to increase.
The investigation filtered down, and some of the people implicated hardened themselves and beat it out of the country. Others are hiding out; there is a border alert for them, and an order of search and capture.
Before such an emergency, and even without finishing the trial, they’re taking the accused out of the investigation center at 100 and Aldabó — the women to the western prison, El Guatao (known as Manto Negro), the men to Valle Grande or the Combinado del Este. The VIP accomplices, owing to their natural status as first-class citizens, were sent home and asked to be “low profile” until their names could be pulled from the file or, at least, their complicity silenced in a case that could paint them as crooks.
Certainly the population’s complaints will increase due to the absence of the country’s beer in Cuban markets. There hasn’t been any of the national beer available in any restaurant or State establishment, nor in the TRD shops, the so-called Rápidos, or Ditú*.
The Minister of Foreign Trade faces lawsuits from international distributors for frequent non-compliance with contractual commitments.
The litigants claim that there was no delivery of Cristal and Bucanero; but the headquarters, Cervecería Bucanero S.A., says it fulfilled its production plans and satisfied requests without reporting anything stolen or lost.
Everyone’s asking the same question: “Where did that beer mysteriously go, once it left the factory, was paid for and didn’t show up in the State system?”
Indications point in only one direction: the private restaurants, private bars and other establishments of the self-employment initiative.
The investigation started at the end of last August, when a couple of inspectors, as lethal and accurate as good snipers, targeted a truck from Cervecería Bucanero S.A., which each week unloaded merchandise in a private restaurant located on the Pinar del Río-Havana highway.
Inconsistent but true because — although the Government says it’s boosting private initiative and the press repeats the lie and many who are misled believe it — there is a regulation that prohibits the self-employed from buying what they sell privately directly from the companies (whether national or foreign), that is, wholesale; they can only buy goods in ordinary consumer stores or shops.
Ministry of the Interior (MININT forces), as part of the process of compiling data and evidence to document the investigation’s case, and make citizens uncomfortable, are examining the house of one of the managers of the Bucanero warehouse, and — according to the investigative file: “In one room (Fambá’s**), inside a safe, the police confiscated 82,000 CUC and three lists: one with the names of sellers to whom they must pay a commission, another of Palco and Habaguanex officials, and the other with directions for distributing merchandise.”
They’re adding prisoners to the list; the investigation is expanding; and the anger of those organizing the case is growing, even when those implicated find themselves facing an “accomplished fact” with no defense. It’s difficult to imagine, because they managed to use methods of buying and selling that are not even conventional enough to qualify as criminal acts.
The private business owners delivered money to the officers of State companies, Palco and Habaguanex; and the officers issued, to Cervecería Bucanero S.A., a bill of payment (not falsified) with the amount of the merchandise, together with an official order.
Bucanero had to deliver, and it did deliver. So sellers and buyers were violating the regulations, yes, but not the law. And in place of being judged for an act of corruption, they should be awarded for their ingenious solution.
*TRD is the Spanish initials for “Hard Currency Collection Store” — which the regime uses to ’collect’ people’s remittances from abroad by selling them overpriced products not available in Cuban pesos; El Rápido is a fast-food chain; Ditú is a chain of coffee shops.
**In the African-Caribbean religion, Abakua, the Fambá is a room where rituals are performed.
Translated by Regina Anavy