Gang Assaults Bus in Ciego de Avila and Steals Luggage

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, 2 February 2023 — Their modus operandi is always the same. After  hiding in the bushes, the thieves wait for the bus to stop at the train tracks,  jump out, open the baggage compartment and make off with some of the luggage. The railway crossing in the town of Quesada, in Ciego de Avila province, is a dangerous place for travelers and the problem is not a new one.

At about 7:10 Wednesday night, a Transtur bus was en route from Camaguey to Havana when assailants pounced on the bus after the driver had stopped at a railroad crossing. “There were about six of them. They were like ninjas,” read a Facebook post from Ridier Leyva Tamayo, one of the passengers whose luggage was stolen.

After watching what was happening from the window, Leyva got off the bus but was unable to recover his belongings. “I fell behind and they threw rocks at me. I had to go back,” he says. The police were called but officers refused to take action, arguing that they could not leave the vehicle unprotected.

The incident is almost a carbon copy of one that Claudia, a 23-year old resident of Camaguey, and her boyfriend experienced in July after they decided to visit family in Havana. “It was at night and the whole area was very dark,” she tells 14ymedio. “I remember I was in a window seat right above the baggage compartment when the bus stopped.”

Claudia observed four individuals with covered faces emerge from the bushes at the same railroad crossing in Quesada. “They moved quickly, like they had done it many times before. In a few seconds they opened the hatch and took out two large suitcases and a carrying case.”

“That was six months ago. If it’s still happening, it’s because [the police] haven’t assigned anyone to guard the area in spite of complaints,” she says. Though she was not among those who lost their belongings, she recalls that on the same Transtur bus there was a couple who were going to Havana to catch an overseas flight. “They lost all the luggage they were carrying for that trip,” she adds.

According to Claudia, the driver said this happens frequently. He tried keep the stop as short as possible but described how once he stopped very briefly only to later be pulled over by police and fined for it.

She believes the thieves are still operating the same way at the same location because, she says, “There are no repurcussions. The police are there for other reasons. They’re there to make sure that the driver is not selling milk on the black market, or that some farmer is not earning a little money selling his products on the side of the road, not to catch these criminals.”

Numerous individuals have left comments under Leyva Tamayo’s social media post, complaining about police misconduct. “I think inaction by the police is the reason crime keeps increasing. They’re not under any real pressure. I called them about a robbery and they showed up an hour later, after it was all over,” complains Onaldo Paján.

“What it is is robbery and no one is doing anything about. Every day it gets worse,” writes Maidelyn Cruz, who suggests avoiding travel at night. Not only do you have to be an artist to avoid all the potholes in Central Highway, she claims, but “the ’ninjas’ have gotten stronger.”

She refers to the thieves as ninjas because of their stealth and speed. They also frequently rob trains, stealing merchandise and passengers’ belongings from freight cars. “They have keys to everything. A locked door is no problem for them,” warns an employee of Ferrocarriles de Cuba, a man who has worked in the rail transportation sector for a quarter of a century.

“They look for interprovincial buses to attack at railroad crossings. They also watch us when we stop to switch train tracks or when we’re waiting for another train to go by. We have no life. They’re just as willing to steal cement as sugar. On passenger trains, people sleep with their briefcases strapped to their feet or arms.”


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