Jailed in Camajuani for Swiping 280 Pounds of Spuds

The fall in potato production has been noticeable in recent years. (Yosmani Mayeta/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | April 14th, 2020 — The People’s Court of Camajuaní in Villa Clara has sentenced two individuals for filching 280 pounds of potatoes intended for sale under the ration system. In the verdict, described by the official press as “setting an example”, the party in charge of the establishment was sentenced to a year of prison, and a second person unafiliated with the establishment, to eight months’ loss of freedom.

The initial hearing took place this past sixth of April against the supervisor of the State enterprise La Cascada, located at 199 Independencia Street, and another citizen not affiliated with the place of business, according to the notice published in the local media.

Both the accused were convicted of the crime of misappropriation of goods for removing from a grocery store a bit over 280 pounds of potatoes that had been destined for the official “basket of basic family necessities”, as the text explained. This tuber, very scarce in Cuba, has undergone at times greater control and at other times a certain flexibilidad in its distribution.

The prison sentence for the [state] employee will be satisfied with correctional work and incarceration, added the source. The official was penalized additionally with a temporary suspension of rights disallowing her to hold any position whatsoever for two years.

The convicted have the right of appeal within a period of three working days.

The crime occured in the morning of March the 29th, “when the citizen, under the direction of the supervisor, removed six sacks of the valuable tuber to a hired horse-drawn wagon, with the purpose of parcelling them out among the households of the convicted, the clerks of the store and his own.

Just as the vehicle was leaving the store with the load, it was detected by an official of the Department of Technical Investigation (DTI) of the Ministry of Interior, who arrested the individual.

In 2017, the free distribution of potatoes, a symbol of the government of Raúl Castro, suffered a hard setback upon returning to control throughout the country, with a limit of 14 pounds per person upon presentation of the ration booklet. Since that time, the tuber has become increasingly scarce in the stands at the markets.

The prosecutor Naivi Hernández Cardoso explained that, after analyzing all the proofs gathered by the authorities of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR in Spanish) and directed by the Prosecutor’s Office, “the participation of the accused in the activity became clear on top of the confession of the parties and other elements of proof brought to air in the trial.”

“The matter has a great social repercussion,given that we are speaking of a food destined for the basic food basket of the population, and one of which three pounds per person are distributed [in that province]. With these 283 pounds of misappropriated potatoes, eighty households and ninety-three persons are affected.”

“In the case of Camajuaní, there is a difficult situation because of the outbreak of the corona virus, and now more than ever we have to be well embued with ethical values and the concept of the Revolution, and be more humane and united one with another. This is not the best behaviour of a person entrusted with the caring for State goods and guaranteeing that they arrive directly to the people,” the Prosecutor argued.

The judge as well added that in light of present circumstances, the Prosecution should be energetically opposed to the waylaying of food products, fuel, construction materials, and with regard to the coronavirus, this activity should be considered a crime in spreading the epidemic to those who suffer tne illness or who suspect they have it and decline to check themselves into a health facility.

Trials that “make examples” are approved by the leadership of the Communist Party in the province, and have for an objective “giving a response that’s rapid, exact and necessary in accordance with the responsibility of the court as representative of the State, and to watch over the strict fulfillment of the laws and other legal dispositions,” the notice further stated.

Potatoes on the Island were distributed exclusively in regulated manner up until the year 2009, at a set price of one CUP (Cuban peso, worth four US cents), a price the State describes as subsidized.

The falling-off of potato production has been notable in the past few years. In 1996, in the midst of the Special Period and strictly rationed, they began to be exported once 348,000 tons were reached. With the reforms of Raúl Castro, beginnng in 2010 the unrationed sale was authorized, but within barely five years, the harvest had fallen to 123,938 tons, and the authorities had to import 14,233 more tons in order to cover the internal demand.

Translated by: Pedro Antonio Gallet Gobin


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