Hard Wood and Gold Contraband Seized by Cuban Authorities

Daniel Benitez   (Café Fuerte)

Hard woods are in big demand in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban thieves are demonstrating their boldness and exploring new areas of illicit commerce on the island, from cedar and carob wood trafficking to illegal gold excavations.

Three new cases of wood trafficking from Cuba’s eastern provinces to Havana came to light in less than one week, when authorities in the province of Matanzas seized the contraband on the island’s National Highway.

The gold mines of Guaracabulla, located near Villa Clara’s town of Placetas, are not far from the highway. There, several individuals were detained on charges of illegally excavating the precious metal, after a follow-up operation meant to crack down on “social misdemeanors” in the region.

The wood contraband was being carried out with State vehicles. According to the official report, the culprits were hiding the furniture and sawed wood behind other goods.

Authorities report that 16 living room sets made of cedar were found in the first truck detained (a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of Culture), behind glove boxes and pallets.

Fines and Detentions

A disassembled carob wood sofa, 72 tables, 56 armchairs and 320 chairs were confiscated from a second vehicle belonging to Havana’s Servi Express company, headed to the capital from Santiago de Cuba.

Both vehicles were detained because the invoices carried by the driver were missing the official company seal, though the trailer doors had the official seal affixed to them.

The third case involved a transport truck belonging to Havana’s Transportation Company which set out from the province of Granma with an initial cargo of rice powder. Inside, 272 cedar and 22 teak planks had been concealed. The entire cargo was confiscated.

According to the reports published, the culprits were fined 750 Cuban pesos (37.50 USD). The detained drivers, whose identity has not been revealed, are currently being tried for involvement in illegal commercial activities.

The authorities have not confirmed that the three cases are linked. Apparently, they are separate operations and no ties exist between the perpetrators.

The wood and furniture was apparently aimed at Havana’s market, where furniture and precious Woods are in high demand among private restaurants and businesses and foreigners living on the island.

The Gold Rush

Those involved in illegal gold operations in Placetas were detained and are currently under investigation, the media have reported.

The detection and capture of the gold seekers was possible thanks to the joint efforts of locals and the heads of grassroots entities and organizations, which reported that, for several months, “people in search of profits had been excavating parcels of lands in areas bordering the town of Guaracbulla, where there are small gold deposits,” Cuba’s National Information Agency (AIN) reported.

According to AIN, the gold-diggers were detained and are currently under investigation. The identity of those arrested has not been revealed.

The gathering of locals and officials was held as part of a nationwide campaign aimed at clamping down on crime which now enters its second year and relies on the participation of Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

According to the Villa Clara District Attorney’s Office, these activities are classified by the Penal Code as “illicit commercial activities and theft,” which are aggravated if they are damaging to the country’s wellbeing and economy.

The State’s Subsoil

Maddiel Reyes, an expert from the Mineral Resources Regional Office, explained that “the subsoil is owned by the State,” and that the State is the only one authorized to extract minerals, for investigative and economic ends, as stipulated by the Mines Law approved in 1994.

Guaracabulla is located on the island’s geographic center. Intensive prospecting began in 1824, chiefly in the copper deposits of Melonera and El Descanso.

The village of San Atanacio de Guaracabulla officially became a town on March 24, 1847. Currently, with a population of 1,660 (according to official statistics), it is considered a rural town.

Cubans living in or near Guaracabulla are aware of the price of gold in the international market and continue to look for reliable “reserves” and businesses of every kind in anticipation of the re-establishment of a single currency system, which could happen as early as mid-year.

12 thoughts on “Hard Wood and Gold Contraband Seized by Cuban Authorities

  • Expand your reading material, Dan.


    “Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba was particularly interested in receiving training from Stasi. Stasi instructors worked in Cuba and Cuban communists received training in East Germany.[32] The Stasi chief Markus Wolf described how he set up the Cuban system on the pattern of the East German system.[33]”


    The training of Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence officers in the techniques of the East German “counterintelligence state”

  • Those are separate incidents, to be evaluated and judged upon their own. If what the US did in Nicaragua was criminal, then it was criminal. Period.

    Are you trying to make the absurd and illogical argument that because the US has engaged in similar illegal activities, then it’s ok for Cuba to do so? Or are you trying to say that because the US did it and got away with it, then it’s not illegal for Cuba to do it?

    By the way, there were thousands of Cuban soldiers in Nicaragua helping to arm, train & lead the Sandinistas in their guerilla war against the Samoza dictatorship. Castro’s intervention in Nicaragua was no less illegal than the US intervention in Nicaragua.

  • That is correct Dan, that is exactly what I am saying! It is the function of the CDRs to report the actions of neignbours to the Party. Wake up to reality.

  • Just how much time did you spend there to come to that conclusion ? Sharpen your reading skills too. Carlyle is comparing the CDRs to the Stasi.

  • Why is it irrelevant when the US commits a much graver international crime ? Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada ….. ?

  • Thank you Griffin. Fidel Castro himself explained that the purpose of the CDR was to report to the Party any deviations indicating dissent or relationship to the “tyranny”. Yes, Dan is correct I have lived in Germany and I have visited “the old DDR”. Children were encouraged to report upon any deviations by their own parents. The history of the Stasi is factual-the records were there!. In Cuba the regime even retains a photograph of each citizen with as many as four pages of information all on a computer system. In my free democratic country that would be illegal as under the law it is an invasion of privacy. There are endless arguments by socialist thinkers about what is true socialism and what is true communism. Fidel Castro wrote in Granma that to him they are the same thing. When in conversation with a Cuban poet, I mentioned “Socialismo” to which he responded by saying: “In Cuba we don’t have socialismo, what we have is “Castroismo”. Similarly in Venezuela, Chavez tried to introduce “Chavizmo”. Beauty it is said lies in the eye of the beholder, and similarly “socialism” lies in the mind of the Dictator.

  • The East German Stasi trained the Cuban intelligence service. The comparison is apt and accurate.

  • The shipment violated the UN sanctions against North Korea. If the Cubans thought this was a perfectly legal thing to do, why did they hide the shipment under sacks of sugar? Why did they lie to Panamanian authorities when questioned about the shipment? Why did the Cuban airforce colonel who authorized the shipment die in a peculiar car crash a week after the UN asked to interview him about the shipment?

    What the US did or didn’t do in Nicaragua is irrelevant.

  • The former is larceny under the Cuban Criminal Code. The latter is a sovereign act of state. If the United States is free to mine Nicaragua’s harbors when it is not at war, why can Cuba not send old equiptment to North Korea for repair ?

  • Carlyle, I don’t know how much time you may have spent in the old DDR, but your comparison of the CDR with the Staats Sicherheit Dienst is nothing short of absurd.

  • So… From the details of this case, it’s a crime when a minor state employee hides a few pieces of lumber behind sacks of rice flour.
    Meanwhile a general can load a Korean freighter with MIGs and artillery pieces under sacks of sugar and nobody gets arrested.

    This is business as usual in the Castro’s Cuba.

  • There is a grave shortage of wood although millions of trees in Cuba although there are some excellent craftsmen and joiners on the island. For example our dining table and set of six chairs although looking new were made from wood salvage. Because of the shortage of wood the central panel of the table is made of salvaged plate glass. Clearly there is the potential for sound commercial development of a wood production industry and for furniture manufacture, but sadly that would smack of “Capitalismo”. In Canada people still pan for gold without getting jailed.
    It isn’t surprising that the CDR was involved, for reporting to the regime upon the activities of the neighbours was when introduced by Fidel an example of the classic Communist cell structure and remains so today. Like the Stasi of East Germany, the CDR is invisible to tourists but is the reason why Cubans are reluctant to talk about the Castros and the regime in case the CDR ears are listening or their eyes are watching.
    Mention of mining for minerals reminds me of Fidel’s heavy criticism voiced in Granma when he was still writing ‘Reminicences’ on a daily basis, of the Canadian mining industry. This despite the mining of nickel in Cuba under the auspices of Sherrit International a Canadian Company. Fidel I recall ceased writing his daily two pages when he said that the space could be used for more important things.
    Mention of Fidel as a President reminds me that the CDR has a “President” for every city block and plaques are affixed to the front of their casas.

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