One Hundred of the 692 Existing Ration Stores in Las Tunas, Cuba, Were Looted in 2023

Sugar, rice, cooking oil and coffee from the basic family basket top the list of what was stolen, worth two million pesos

The authorities recognize that many of these establishments are in poor condition and without bars on the doors to protect them / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 June 2024 — One hundred bodegas (ration stores) in Las Tunas were looted by thieves in 2023. So far this year, there have been eighteen. The authorities of the province expressed alarm about the events to the official press this Wednesday but did not hesitate to focus on the material losses and damages to the State, although it is the population that clearly suffers the most.

According to Periódico 26, of all the robberies that occurred last year in state entities in the province, the “booty” of the bodegas represents 84.7%, with two million pesos of reported losses. “Of the products, 43,900 pounds of brown sugar and 2,900 pounds of refined; 30,000 pounds of rice; 244 gallons of cooking oil; 1,000 packages of coffee; and 1,180 pounds of beans, preserves and peas fell into the wrong hands,” the newspaper listed, complaining that the residents had to see it disappear from the basic family basket “in one stroke.”

The most affected municipality was Puerto Padre, with 30 robbed bodegas and more than a half-million pesos in losses, a quarter of the total in the province.

“How have the thieves been able to act with impunity, to the extent that there are some stores that have been robbed several times?” asks Periódico 26, and it immediately offers the answer. According to reports from the Ministry of the Interior in the province, thefts occur between two and six in the morning, usually in premises with precarious security (bars on the windows, night guards) and with poor lighting, problems that it is up to the Directorate of Internal Trade to solve.

The provincial director of the ministry, Raymel Espinosa Saborit, told the newspaper that of the 692 bodegas in the province, about 100 are in poor condition and “lack security provisions,” and about half, 377, do not have guards hired by Commerce.

Espinosa explained that an analysis is currently being carried out in the province’s staff to offer custodian positions

Delving into this last point, Espinosa explained that an analysis is currently being carried out in the province’s workforce to offer guard positions to the bodegas that need it. However, offering the job is not a guarantee of anything. “We have a positive example: the municipality of Colombia is the only one that has its own guards in its 44 bodegas. Parallel to that reality is the problem that few people want to work as guards, so it is useless to offer employment,” he argues.

Likewise, in one of the cases of robbery counted by the authorities, the thieves took advantage of the fact that the guard left his post, to loot the El Sazón bodega last March. “They carried off two bags of rice, 3,000 boxes of cigars and some carbonated soft drinks. Of course, the guard was dismissed,” the new bodega administrator, Yoel Rey González, who has been in the position for barely a month, told the media.

A similar fate befell the administrator of the La Roca bodega, who was replaced by Malena Reynaldo on March 4, ten days after the place suffered a robbery. “They took everything: rice, sugar, oil, cigars, rum. Even the display bags that had sand for weight. The store was completely empty, and the neighbor’s camera recorded everything,” says the woman, who still returns occasionally at night with her husband to make sure that everything is okay.

Reynaldo is the mother of two girls, and her house, like that of her co-worker, is far from the establishment, so it is difficult for her, after a working day, to also take care of security due to the lack of a guard. Her effort goes even further: “The unit was very vulnerable, without any custodian or security. The two of us who work here paid to put bars on the doors and bought a new lock and key. All that cost 28,000 pesos that we paid with the contribution of some neighbors, and the window is still missing,” says the woman.

Periódico 26 criticizes the fact that the worker must pay out of her own pocket to keep the merchandise safe

For its part, Periódico 26 criticizes the fact that the worker must pay out of her own pocket to keep the merchandise safe and also has to go check the bodega from time to time. “In our inquiries we learned that they do it because, if there is a robbery, ’they are held responsible’. Of course, that is a misconception,” says the newspaper, but it’s obvious that the predecessors of Reynaldo and Rey were dismissed after the robberies.

With an attitude unusual for the official press, the newspaper even proposes solutions for the most urgent problems. “The poor lighting is a difficulty that could be eradicated, perhaps, from a joint effort with the Electric Company. Given the lack of lighting, why not move some of those lamps to the front of the bodegas, the most important economic objective of a community?” it proposes, but this time it’s the constant blackouts that are not taken into account.

As for security, “filling the guard positions is the mission of the Directorate of Commerce, and if there are no people willing to assume them, they must go to the specialized protection services,” the newspaper adds.

However, the final “scolding” is aimed at the residents of the province: “These bodegas belong to the Cuban State, but their goods belong to the population, so we are facing everyone’s problem. Hence, living with the lack of vigilance is inadmissible,” it argues.

“Robbing an establishment of this caliber doesn’t just happen by arriving and taking something in five minutes. It takes time and transport; therefore, it seems science fiction that no one hears or sees anything, especially when most of the robberies are committed in the urban area, with housing in the vicinity,” it adds.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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