Rain of Judicial Sentences for Resellers and ‘Coleros’ in Villa Clara

The official press recognizes that there are desperate people who see no other solution than to buy from resellers and that the State’s virtual stores do not work as they should. (Laura Rodríguez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 September 2021 — In the first six months of this year, 78 people were tried for crimes related to speculation and hoarding in Villa Clara and only five were acquitted. The others ended up with prison sentences, sometimes commuted to correctional work, many were fined and all the assets involved were confiscated.

The data has been provided by Yunieska Gómez Montero, vice president of the People’s Provincial Court, for one of the frequent articles with which the State newspaper Granma reports on the seriousness of illicit economic activities for “squeezing the pockets of those who work,” urging the population to report the activities, and admits that the phenomenon proliferates “in broad daylight” without the authorities doing anything.

The text begins with a real case — with the appearance of a fable — in which a long-suffering and prestigious doctor from Villa Clara takes advantage of the little free time that the pandemic gives him to go shopping. On the streets of Santa Clara, he runs into a reseller who asks him for 200 pesos for toilet paper and ends up selling him various products for a total of 2,000 pesos because the doctor does not have time to stand in line.

The article, titled Resellers Offer, Salvation or Shameless Abuse? admits that there is a proliferation of resellers and “hoarders” and attributes it to the existing shortages because the resources of the State are being used to combat the pandemic, although it does not miss the opportunity to point to the US embargo. “There is no way that can be ignored and not accuse, as many times as possible, that hostile policy that for more than 60 years has been a shackle on the throat of the country,” it says.

The list of products seized in the Villa Clara operations is long: detergents, peroxide, deodorants, hair conditioner, perfumes and colognes, diapers, hair dye, toothpaste, face creams, cosmetics, beans, rice, cigarettes, cement, light bulbs, coffee, sausages, meats, oils, powdered milk, sugar, alcoholic beverages … “most of which were embezzled from state stores and warehouses,” but also from hard currency stores “stolen in complicity with staff of those centers.”

In total, since July 2020, the Villa Clara Prosecutor’s Office has engaged in 217 processes in which 176 people have been sanctioned, of which 13 were deprived of liberty, 55 interned to labor in a correctional facility, 64 to correctional work without internment, 11 to limitation of freedom, and 33 sanctioned with fines.

The text recalls that coleros — people who stand in line for others — and resellers act with total impunity and in full view of all, but that even worse is the sale through social networks and online sites such as Revolico, because they are more numerous and invisible and even offer medicines.

The article recognizes that there are desperate people who see no other solution than to buy through these channels and that the virtual stores of the State do not work as they should, pushing many to these alternative routes, but urges people to denounce those who take advantage of the needs of others.

“It is immoral for someone to take advantage of the facilities to import medicines, food and hygiene products, and then hawk them. Those who steal drugs from hospitals also escape through that loophole,” says a presumed whistleblower from Santa Clara.

The official press frequently addresses this type of information to remind the population of the consequences of hoarding, theft or illegal sale of products, but alternates this discourse, and the exhibition of operations and punitive measures, with rampant permissiveness, when it does not participate directly in it.

Many experts consider that the fear of a social uprising is the main reason why the authorities do not decide to apply the measures against these practices in a rigorous and generalized manner.


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