Thefts rising sharply: a scourge that needs a solution in the New and Better Cuba we want to build.
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – I have always defended the fact that the Cuban Revolution has “achievements”, which have been positive, even if today services under its reign are barely functional. Yes, there is an educated and qualified workforce, as well as many reservoirs across the country, the public health system, etc.
I believe it’s absurd, useless, and self-denigrating to deny this. However, there are also negative “achievements” or “scourges of the Revolution”, which have been created by the Communist Party government and they cause a lot of damage. They need an urgent solution as soon as we have a democracy. There’s ideological polarization, a lack of public spirit, a very large diaspora community, the destruction of infrastructure, tech backwardness and others. However let me leave “widespread crime” for last, because that’s what I’m going to write about in this article.
Committing a crime in a country like this one, where far too many things constitute a crime, is easy; it’s even pretty much necessary if you want to get by. It’s horrible and ‘determining’ that people have accepted crime as something normal.
The fact that the State is the largest employer and doesn’t pay its employees a fair wage (only 10 or 20% of what a minimally acceptable wage would be given living costs today), forces workers to “hustle” for everything else they need, committing crimes at their own workplaces.
If the private sector doesn’t have a stable raw materials market to operate and pay licenses and high taxes, if they want to survive and grow, they end up becoming customers of an illicit market that encourages crime.
If people are always in need and there are always shortages, then they also turn to this irregular market, and it grows as a result. When people are hungry and in need, values are put to the test. Sadly, a significant percentage of people give in. With such a “crime university” here, which is a result of all the above and the Cuban system, insecurity and theft take their anger out in society. This is exacerbated in times of severe crisis, such as the one we have today.
Here in my neighborhood, it would be hard to choose which thefts to tell you about, because so many happen every day. I’ll give you personal examples first: my mother had her TV antenna with an aluminum pipe that held it up, stolen a few days ago. They even took the coaxial cable. We had to improvise one with wires and keep it inside, because there aren’t any antennae or cables on sale in stores, as you’d expect. Much less aluminum pipes.
On my piece of land, last month, people broke into my tobacco drying hut by breaking down a wall, at night of course, and they took a polyethylene hose that was for watering the crops, and four sprinklers. They all took me years of searching to find and buy, and they’re impossible to replace without either stealing them or buying them from a thief, because they aren’t being sold anywhere.
I went home one day to have lunch, and when I got back to the land, two more sprinklers had been taken. I now have to ask a neighbor to lend me one, who has also been robbed, nobody can escape them. No matter how much care you take, there is always an opportunity for thieves, because there are so many of them. I am even thinking about getting rid of my banana plantation for self-consumption because 30% of the bunches get stolen and I must harvest 70% before they’re really ready. I even had some lettuces stolen the other day.
Don’t go thinking that thieves have it out for me either and that they’re after me. Not at all! In fact, I’m probably one of the people who got off the lightest. Thieves broke into my neighbor Yordanys’ home late one night and even stole cooking oil, rice and cooking pans. Another neighbor, Ismael, had his cow stolen a month ago, and the cow gave the family their breakfast, and they also took a team of oxen that worked on his farm.
You must cover your house windows and doors with bars, and farmers keep their animals in iron pens. But thieves are always looking for a way to figure out padlock combinations or they steal them in broad daylight when they’re out in the pasture, as soon as the guard takes their eye off them for one second. Seedlings are even stolen from seedbeds. Guards cost 200 pesos for the night, driving up expenses which then translates into high prices of products.
In short, madness, product of the centrally-planned economy’s dysfunctional system, that doesn’t free up productive forces, nor the market, and forces crime. Everything becomes irregular, foul and unfair. There’s no doubt that the “proliferation of theft” stands out as one of the many scourges that hinder the proper functioning of Cuban society.
It is something the Government hasn’t been able to resolve, despite having wrongful tools such as pre-delinquent sentences, because it fails to resolve incongruencies in its own system of society that they impose. But it’s definitely something we need to solve in the New and Better Cuba we want to build, with political democracy, economic freedom and full human rights.