Cuba’s Villa Clara Ranchers Organize Guards to Stop Cattle Theft

“They say that they kill our cattle because we don’t take care of them, which may be true, but I assure you that the only thing left to do is put the cattle to sleep inside the house.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2023 — Not even the threat of going to prison for up to 10 years for the illegal slaughter of cattle stopped this crime in Villa Clara, which closed 2022 with unprecedented figures of 12,237 head of cattle stolen or slaughtered. These events grew 200% compared to the previous year and are leading the farmers to create bodies of guards to watch over the cattle.

The data was published this Monday by the State newspaper Granma , under the title Impunity, Scourge of Livestock. In the text, the official newspaper is inclined to show cases of producers who managed to confront criminal groups, but offers figures that show that the crisis in the sector worsened in 2022, both due to criminal acts and to the lack of food and water to support the cattle.

Roberto Pérez García, in charge of the Genetics and Livestock Registry of Villa Clara, explained to the newspaper that theft and illegal slaughter of cattle registered an excessive growth last year with 8,166 cases, more than double the 4,071 reported in 2021. Those accounted for in 2022 correspond to 2.4% of the horse and cattle numbers of the province, added the official, who acknowledged that the figures could be higher because not all the events in question are denounced or known by the authorities.

Furthermore, this figure does not include the 22,000 cows that died last year in the same province due to lack of water, food and medicine. Pérez García recognized that the preventive control of the unit that he directs was lacking, as well as “the joint action” of other institutions to support the producers in the care of their animals.

The official indicated that these are historical records, and that in November alone the number of stolen cattle rose to 1,800, with a similar figure for December.

“Sometimes they say that we farmers kill our cattle because we don’t take care of them, which may be true, but I assure you that the only thing left is to bed the cattle down inside the house. Do you know where my oxen were when they took them to me? In the doorway of the house, and even so they had no compassion for an old man over 80 years old,” laments Rodríguez Alfonso. “Never before has the same vandalism been experienced.”

With the economic crisis and food shortages, cattle rustling has become organized by gangs that clandestinely slaughter the animals and then sell the meat on the black market at ‘gold’ prices. Many producers do not report the thefts to the authorities because they are threatened or because the Police do not bother with the cases.

The lack of inputs for the manufacture of fences and other protection and security mechanisms also hinders the care of livestock. The possession of weapons in the hands of ranchers is prohibited and to defend their animals they must call on the guards with machetes or build improvised devices that serve as shotguns.

Yusniel Benavides Gutiérrez, chief prosecutor of the province’s Department of Criminal Procedures, assured the newspaper that only 1% of the cases reported last year reached the courts, despite the great impact these crimes have on economic activity.

“These are complex situations to clarify, because they occur in complex areas and there are many delays in filing the complaints, which limits the opportunity for the investigation, to which is added the existing lack of control in the cattle herds in all places,” said the prosecutor.

Benavides Gutiérrez noted that the penalties for these crimes are from four to 10 years in prison for illegal slaughter, or from three to eight years for trading meat on the black market. However, the gangs of slaughterers managed to evade the authorities and, just as in Villa Clara, the province of Las Tunas also registered a record growth in these acts at the end of last year with the theft of 5,305 head of cattle, about 2,207 (71.2%) more than in 2021.

The official newspaper points out that the same situation was experienced in the base business unit of Juan Pedro Carbó Serviá, from Placetas, until Midiala González Madero took over the management of the entity and met with the workers and residents of the area to “commit to them to solve the problem.”

“Without inflating the workforce,” said the woman, a body of guards was created to monitor and count the cattle.

In the same vein, Yamilé Báez Fernández, president of the Bernardo Díaz cooperative, from Cifuentes, said that she has not suffered from theft or animal sacrifices for 10 years. The woman indicated that a patrol system was formed with 60 members of the institution, who rotate to provide surveillance in the pastures.

Both producers insist that they had the support of the Ministry of the Interior, but it is not constant in the rest of the Cuban territory where the criminals intimidate the producers, as happened last week in Cienfuegos. There, the rancher Yordany Díaz was murdered after confronting a gang that had killed a cow on his property. In this case, the authorities have not provided more details than those that came out on social networks, nor informed whether those involved have been arrested.


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