Thirty people have been charged after stealing 133 tonnes of chicken and then selling it in Cuba, amidst the nation’s economic turmoil and scarcity of food. Thieves took the meat, in 1,660 white boxes, from a state facility in the capital Havana, and used the sale proceeds to buy refrigerators, laptops, televisions and air conditioners, according to a Cuban state TV broadcast late on Friday, Reuters reported.
The chicken was intended for distribution to citizens through the communist-run island’s ration book system, established over 60 years ago following Fidel Castro’s revolution. This system offers subsidised food and remains a vital component of daily life in Cuba.
Rigoberto Mustelier, director of government food distributor COPMAR, said the quantity stolen was the equivalent of a month’s ration of chicken for a medium-sized province at current distribution rates.
The quantity of chicken accessible through the ration book has significantly declined in recent years due to the economic crisis, which has led to shortages of food, fuel, and medicines.
Subsidized products often reach the population days, weeks, or even months behind schedule, forcing individuals who earn an average wage of 4,209 pesos a month ($14 at the informal exchange rate) to find alternative means to cover their expenses.
Authorities refrained from specifying the exact timing of the chicken theft but indicated that it likely occurred between midnight and 2 a.m. They observed temperature fluctuations in the cold storage facility during this time frame, and video surveillance footage showed trucks transporting the chicken away from the site.
The 30 charged included shift bosses and IT workers at the plant, as well as security guards and outsiders not directly affiliated with the company, the TV report said.
The suspects, if found guilty, could face as many as 20 years in prison, Reuters reported.
Crime has increased alongside economic hardship since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, though reports of large-scale thefts like this one are still a rarity on the Caribbean island.