In a Havana Post Office, Money From Retirees’ Pensions is Stolen

Post office located at Calle Tejar and 14, in Lawton, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, Havana. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 3 February 2023 — The thief who broke into the Post Office at Tejar and 14 streets, in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, calculated every aspect of the robbery well this Monday morning. The money for the meager pensions of retirees in the area had just arrived, as had a few stamps for paperwork. In addition, the place has very little surveillance, it is in a secluded neighborhood and at night no one dares to go outside.

“They took everything: the money, the stamps and even the telephone,” the only employee in the office explained on Tuesday to two elderly people who came to request their pensions. Given the fact, denounced by some relatives on social networks, the worker can do nothing. She asks those who come to buy the stamps required to file different types of official paperwork to go to another office – the one in Porvenir, also in Lawton – but the elderly will remain, for the moment, without cashing their checks.

“Here everyone lives ‘indoors’,” one of the elderly residents explains to this newspaper, frustrated, as he leaves the post office. “During the day, this looks like a ghost town, like in the country.”

For several days, they say, they tried to call the office to find out if their payment was ready. “We called many times and it was out of service,” they recount. “Then, upon arrival, they explained to us that the thief had also taken the phone.”

The office is one of the ugliest and most precarious buildings in Lawton. Stains of lime and dirt cover the walls, two public telephones that nobody uses preside over the entrance and, inside, there are cardboard tables, murals full of slogans and portraits of Fidel Castro, and a small counter to serve customers.

“Everyone here lives ‘indoors’”, explains one of the elders to this newspaper. “During the day, this looks like a ghost town, like in the countryside.” (14ymedio)

“In the morning the people of Trasval were here,” says another old man, alluding to the company in charge of transferring and supplying cash in stores, offices and banks. “They let the employee know that so far no measure has been taken, nor will there be money until further notice. We are left without the pension for the month,” he laments.

The authorities have not reported anything about the investigation of the case. The little that is known is what the worker has told the clients, as a justification for not being able to provide any service. The official silence has sparked speculation among the people: some accuse the custodian of the premises, others the employee herself, and many agree that it is a crime with the collaboration of someone who had the keys to the office.

“No one forced the door,” says an old man. “The lock is intact and no one has changed it recently either.” “It’s self-robbery,” says the other, settling the issue. He calculates that, in addition to the pension money, the thief will sell the stamps at a good price. A five-peso stamp can exceed the cost of 600 pesos on the black market.

The stamp deficit is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for those who have planned a trip or want to complete a procedure that requires an official stamp, however simple it may be. The sale of stamps, at a time of maximum migratory effervescence, has become one of the most lucrative businesses in Cuba’s informal trade.

As for pensions, which the Cuban government itself has described as insufficient for the cost of living on the island, they are subject to numerous collection requirements that prevent retirees and social assistance beneficiaries from going to another office to collect their checks.

Affiliation to a Cuban Post Office, like the one that was just robbed in Lawton, is one of the essential requirements to return home with retirement money.


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