14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2023 — The Matanzas Court sentenced a security guard of the Mario Muñoz sugar mill to four years in prison for being involved in the theft of three sacks of sugar, the official press reported on Friday. Since April, another 12 factory workers have been sanctioned, most of them for complicity and conspiracy in the robberies.
According to the provincial newspaper Girón, the 23-year-old security guard received a payment of 3,000 pesos for giving access to the mill to a group of criminals who stole 150 kilograms of refined sugar with a value of 1,88.90 Cuban pesos, at the official price. The name of the guard and the thieves, as well as the date of the event, were not revealed.
One of the directors of the mill who was walking through discovered the misdeed and alerted the authorities.
Thanks to the ” lack of criminal record, collaboration and good behavior,” the guard was sentenced to the minimum penalty for the crime (four years), which he will have to serve in a center of the Ministry of the Interior.
The court warned that the penalty is not yet final, since the accused can appeal to the Supreme Court for disagreement. The sentences of the rest were not appealed.
Another dozen cases of theft (61%), robbery with force and illegal appropriation of state media and products have occurred throughout 2023 in the same mill, considered by the media as one of the most important on the Island. Seven cases involved industry workers who stole sugar, sometimes with external help, during their shifts.
The provincial media said that five were sentenced to prison, and the remaining seven were given a combined penalty of jail, home confinement, correctional work without imprisonment and fines for the value of the stolen product.
The Matanzas authorities consider that the crimes committed at the plant are serious, so they acted “with the necessary severity.” However, they guaranteed that all the stolen product was recovered.
Both the media and the officials affirm that the recent thefts have significantly affected the productivity of the factory and the presence of sugar in the ration system’s basic basket, and that, they explain, constitutes a violation of the rights of citizens. “The crime must be identified in time and punished with the necessary rigor, because, when it comes to protecting the property of the people, any measure is too little,” says Girón, which recognizes that not all cases of this type come to justice.
The authorities, however, do not mention the disastrous figures for the latest sugar harvests. In 2022, production barely reached 350,000 tons of sugar of the 400,000 planned, and in 2023 significant delays have already been reported. By this June, Sancti Spíritus had barely planted 30% of the planned sugar cane, and Artemisa, which started the campaign a month late, managed to produce only 44% of the sugar estimated for the year.
With the food crisis that the country is going through, crimes of theft in food factories and warehouses have skyrocketed. On August 1, 14ymedio reported the theft of products from the basic basket of at least 10 Sancti Spíritus ration stores.
The products most often stolen were rice, beans, sugar, coffee, oil, meat and other supplies that depend on the production from each municipality. On more than one occasion, the authorities in charge of supervising the establishments identified their own workers as the perpetrators of the misdeeds.
During one of the sessions of Parliament, held this July, Camagüey deputy Lurdelis Cárdenas Jiménez warned of failures in the control of internal corruption that allow these criminal acts to be carried out with the help of the employees themselves.
When these are discovered, they are usually sanctioned by moving the employees to another position, which creates dissatisfaction in the population and the perception that the problem is only being moved elsewhere.
The Prosecutor’s Office, for its part, explained that it lacks the necessary personnel to alleviate the increase in crime on the Island and described the current situation as “one of great complexity.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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