In Cuba the Tomato King Pays for His Success With Prison

The Interior Ministry seized more than 1,250 sacks containing 62,8450 bottles of tomato puree from the farmer, currently in pretrial detention. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2020 — A farmer from the Los Palacios de Pinar del Río municipality was arrested on charges of “illicit economic activity” for producing and selling tomato puree.

According to a report issued by Cuban Television, the producer, a member of the Manuel Ascunce Credit and Service Cooperative in the Paso Quemado Popular Council, was required to deliver 20 tons of tomatoes to the province’s state-run industry in the last cold season, but, says the official media, he failed to comply..

“It only delivered 27 quintals, approximately one ton,” the municipal agriculture delegate, Carlos González Ocasio, said in the report. The official said that the rest of the production, which he did not report,” could have been sent to supply the territory’s agricultural markets, but instead he appropriated this production for personal manufacture” of tomato puree.

The Interior Ministry seized more than 1,250 sacks containing 62,8450 bottles of tomato puree from “artisanal manufacture, an activity for which he did not have legal authorization,” said an official.

During the operation, several personal hygiene products, 16 sacks of soy, 75 liters of car oil and 780 liters of diesel were also confiscated.

According to the state television report, the man was able to illegally market 2,500 bottles of tomato puree. The production that the police confiscated was transferred to the state run business Acopio, in the municipality, “pending a health assessment regarding its use.”

Many Cuban farmers have complained forever that the goals the Acopio company sets for their output are high, and the prices very low. They almost always lose more than than they gain from from fulfilling state contracts. The little that remains of their crops is often consumed by the farmers themselves.

A case similar to that of the farmer from Pinar del Río was one involving a farmer from the Cooperativa Ciro Redondo in the province of Artemisa. Nicknamed The Cheese King on social networks, the farmer who owned 42 cows, delivered 70 liters of milk to the state every day, well short of the 150 that he was required to provide, according to a report broadcast in the National Newscast. The man was arrested for the alleged crime of illegal economic activity; he had a cheese factory that mainly supplied three restaurants specializing in Italian food in the municipality of Playa, in Havana.

The Cuban government recently announced a transformation of the marketing system for agricultural products. However, what the farmers see is a timid relaxation of the agricultural market. Private farmers will be able to sell part of their production on their own as long as they do so under state requirements, but first they must satisfy the deliveries agreed to with Acopio.

According to the farmers contacted by 14ymedio, this announcement will not change anything. “Now we can declare on paper what we were doing a long time ago.”

The government of Raúl Castro had already implemented similar measures in 2011, aimed at opening up the agriculture, but reversed the measures in 2016, without explanation.


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