14ymedio, Havana, August 1, 2023 — Some ten bodegas (ration stores) in the province of Sancti Spíritus have suffered violent robberies, while in another five – in addition to a food processing center – cases of corruption have been detected so far this year. The stolen products affected the delivery of the “basic basket” to the population, whose complaints led to inventories and checks after which the crimes came to light.
The thieves managed to enter the bodegas by breaking doors, ceilings and windows, Ariel Fernández, director of the Commerce business group in the province, told the local press. Pojabo – a town to the southwest of the provincial capital – Yaguajay, La Sierpe and two areas of Trinidad – Limones Cantero and Condado – have been the most affected by the crimes.
The thieves are targeting, above all, food: rice, grains, sugar, coffee, oil, meat and other supplies that depend on the production of each municipality. At the moment, the Police have only captured three of the criminals involved.
Regarding the corruption of the Commerce workers themselves, Fernández was blunt: “Being fired from the entity is applied as a measure,” he assured. In addition, managers who failed in their responsibility to keep strict control of inventories were forced to repay the missing money. Others face proceedings for “embezzlement of basic products for the people,” he said.
The serious “lack of control and ethics of the civil servants who were in charge of the entities” are the true cause of the crimes, lamented the official, who did not give more details about the robberies to the local press.
During the accountability sessions of the Cuban Parliament, last July, the Minister of Internal Commerce, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, revealed that 361 bodegas had been broken into to commit robberies between January and May 2023. The official explained that what the criminals overwhelmingly seek is rice, beans, powdered milk, soap and cigarettes, which are then resold in the informal market where rice – she exemplified – already reaches up to 200 pesos per pound.
In the same meeting, the Camagüeyan deputy Lurdelis Cárdenas denounced that in each crime there is usually a component linked to corruption, which facilitates theft. However, at the local level, the accomplices are sanctioned by being transferred to another position, “moving the problem from place to place” and generating discontent in the population.
The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, for its part, considered the situation one of “great complexity” and pointed out that the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office did not have enough personnel to process all criminal acts with the required efficiency and speed.
Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Court, mentioned that drug trafficking, theft and slaughter of cattle, tax evasion, theft of state assets, and family and gender violence were also part of the criminal panorama on the island.
In addition, he confirmed that 1,273 people were tried for illegal cattle slaughter, 360 for crimes associated with drugs, 249 for embezzlement, 4,666 for crimes against property, 52 for illegal economic activity, and 154 for speculation and hoarding.
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