Cuba has accused 30 individuals of stealing 133 tons of chicken and illegally reselling it on the street, in a significant theft during a period of food scarcity in the country, which is under communist rule.
According to a broadcast on Cuban state TV on Friday night, burglars stole meat from a government building in Havana. They then sold the meat in 1,660 white boxes and used the profits to purchase refrigerators, laptops, televisions, and air conditioners.
The chicken had been earmarked for Cuba`s “rationbook” system introduced after the late Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution to provide subsidized staples for all.
According to Rigoberto Mustelier, the head of COPMAR, the amount of goods stolen is equal to one month’s supply of chicken for a medium-sized province based on current distribution rates.
The quantity of chicken provided through the rationbook has significantly decreased in the past few years due to an economic crisis causing shortages of food, fuel, and medicines.
Numerous products that have been subsidized may not reach the general population until days, weeks, or even months after the intended schedule. This often forces individuals earning an average monthly wage of 4,209 pesos ($14 at the informal exchange rate) to find alternative means of meeting their financial needs.
Officials did not specify the timing of the chicken robbery, but indicated that it probably happened sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. This is based on detecting temperature changes in the cold storage facility during that time. Trucks were recorded on video surveillance taking the chicken away from the site.
According to the TV report, among the 30 individuals charged were not only shift bosses and information technology employees employed at the facility, but also security guards and individuals associated with the company but not directly employed by it.
If the suspects are proven guilty, they may potentially be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Since the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in crime due to economic struggles. However, occurrences of significant thefts remain uncommon on the Caribbean island.