HAVANA TIMES — Authorities in Cuba’s province of Sancti Spiritus have announced that a region-wide police offensive has resulted in the prosecution of nearly three hundred citizens who had participated in illicit business activities.
This past Saturday, the province’s weekly periodical Escambray reported that the crackdown, conducted in the months of July and August, uncovered a series of unlawful activities leading to fines, official warnings and the trial of 289 individuals.
According to the newspaper, the police offensive was undertaken “for the purposes of intensifying the fight against social indiscipline and illegal activities” announced by President Raul Castro during his address to the National Assembly of the People’s Power (Cuban Parliament) on July 7 this year.
The individuals detained were tried for crimes that range from hoarding, receiving, illicit profit-making activities, misappropriation and speculation.
A Well-Equipped Rum Factory
The police offensive dismantled 31 illegal home-warehouses, nine production facilities and two workshops located in the municipalities of Sancti Spiritus (17), Trinidad (8), Taguasco (7), Cabaiguan (6), Yaguajay (5), and Jatibonico and La Sierpe (with four such facilities each).
One of the most talked-about cases was a clandestine rum manufacturing plant discovered in Sancti Spiritus, where authorities confiscated two 200-liter alcohol tanks, 295 small bottles bearing the seal and label of Cuba’s Ron Bartolome brand, three pounds of industrial coal and different pieces of equipment used to manufacture the drink.
In Taguasco, authorities discovered a clandestine soft-drink plant and seized a home-made drink machine and oxygen, carbon dioxide and acetylene containers.
In the city of Sancti Spiritus, police raided a house where new, Haier-brand refrigerators were being sold. Five of these units were confiscated. Authorities are still trying to determine the source of these units, which were being sold at 1,000 Cuban pesos each.
In another house in Sancti Spiritus, a broad range of products in high demand were reportedly being hoarded. These products included brushes, batteries, soap, stove pieces, energy-saving bulbs, cooking oil, sugar, rum, pencils, steel-wool scourers, powder milk and soldering sticks.
Home Deliveries of Ham
An illegal manufacturer of ham products was also dismantled by authorities in the provincial capital, where 150 pounds of pork, 134 industrial-strength bags and 43 finished tubes of the product were confiscated.
In an illegal Cuban rum factory, set up in the storage room of a house in the town of Fomento, authorities found a barrel of beer (fitted with a dispenser), an empty, 55-gallon tank with an electric heater inside, plastic containers filled with a fermented mix and over 100 pounds of sugar.
Another case, described with an unusual level of detail by the local press, was the seizure of a clandestine bakery located in Trinidad.
“During the search, the police confiscated a weighing scale, a kneading device, 269 loafs/rolls of bread, 85 baking trays and 27 sealed boxes containing yeast, weighing 14 kilograms in total. Authorities also confiscated 30 bottles of lard, a little over 8 kilograms of a product used to improve bread dough, an open sack of sugar and 24 sealed wheat flour sacks, the periodical reports.
A Suspicious Vehicle
In Cabaiguan, civil disobedience charges were brought against the driver of a Moskvitch vehicle who did not pull over when requested to do so by the police and, during a maneuver, crashed into the back of a patrol car.
Upon inspection, the vehicle was found to contain 10 sacks of raw sugar. The source of the product has yet to be determined.
The government offensive also brought to light several cases of hoarding and illegal appropriation of rice. In Guasimal, police agents came upon a mill used to hull rice grains and confiscated 74 quintals of the product from the owner.
Other illegal practices uncovered during the police operations included:
– A case of misappropriation at a rice processing plant located in Tamarindo, La Sierpe. There, several animal-drawn and one home-made mechanical device loaded with 16 sacks of unprocessed rice were discovered in the presence of the operators, who were caught in the act by authorities while packaging the product funneled through an opening under a conveyor belt. The shift supervisor and two custodians were held liable for these activities.
– The illegal collection of sand at the Seibabo-Agabama basin and the sale of this material at a warehouse in Trinidad, where 47 cubic meters of the product were found.
– Environmental damage caused by two unlicensed carpentry workshops in Taguasco, unlawful fishing activities by a group of locals and the capture and trade of local fauna by a resident of Cabaiguan, from whom 109 birds were confiscated.
– At an illegal warehouse set up in a home near the Rio Zaza dairy product plant in Sancti Spiritus, a great number of products manufactured at this facility or used to produce food products were confiscated by authorities. During the raid, police confiscated around 100 boxes of powder milk, two sacks of skim butter, a sealed, 20-liter plastic bucket of lard, 17 kilograms of chocolate powder, 34 kilograms of powdered milk, 20 liters of gasoline and 100 liters of diesel fuel.
According to the article, these police operations “relied heavily on the cooperation of citizens” who contacted authorities by phone or other means.
In recent weeks, Cuba’s official press has been reporting cases of corruption and massive thefts taking place in State facilities as part of a nationwide offensive against the illegal practices and social misdemeanors denounced by President Raul Castro in his address to the Parliament.