1,293 pounds of potatoes disappear in Havana

From our Bureau of Furtive Spuds with some assistance from our Bureau of Creative Problem Solving in Socialist Utopias

Castro, Inc. might be the biggest thief in Cuba, but it has been getting some competition lately as the economy collapses and food shortages become ever more extreme. The recent theft of half a ton of potatoes is proof of this. Authorities blame the black market for the recent increase in thefts, and they are probably right about that. But it is Castro, Inc.’s total control of the food supply that creates the black market, which is why Cuba has had a thriving black market since Castro, Inc. took control of the island.

And the profit motive for black market entrepreneurs is immense. Even a ten-year old child can do the basic calculations. Potatoes sell for around 200 pesos per pound on the black market. That’s $8.34 USD per pound. (Compare that to $3.68 per pound at Wal Mart in the U.S. ) This means that if you steal 1,293 pounds of potatoes from those who control all potatoes in Cuba, you stand to make close to $11,000 USD in the black market.

And . . . this raises a philosophical questions: can thieves who steal from thieves be called “thieves”?

From Havana Times

Local leaders and police officers sprang into action after receiving anguished calls from residents of the Rampa neighborhood in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution district on Wednesday. The cause: the theft of 1,293 pounds of potatoes intended for roughly 431 residents — a rate of three pounds per person — who suddenly found themselves without access to the product.

According to a post on Facebook by the Vedado Administrative Council, after receiving reports that there were no potatoes at the market on 17th and K streets, Council President Pedro Lizardo Garcés Escalona, went to investigate. Practically speaking, the potato supply should have been enough to feed everyone.

After confirming that there had been “violations,” he contacted the Municipal Office of Inspection and the police, who determined there was a shortfall that “could not be accounted for.” The market’s administrator, the post states, was detained and taken to the police station at Zapata and C streets “so that the appropriate investigative process could be carried out.”

Garcés Escalona, who also provided details of the robbery on social media, claimed that during the inspection, “weight tampering” was discovered and that the market had been selling fewer pounds of potatoes than customers had been paying for. However, the amount he reported stolen was greater than the figure reported on the council’s webpage. His was also the figure that was cited in an article published in Tribuna de la Habana. According to the preliminary count, 1,609 pounds of potatoes were missing, enough to feed 536 consumers.

“You shouldn’t play around with the public’s food supply, much less profit from it in the midst of a complicated situation like the country is experiencing,” said Garcés Escalona.

Potatoes have only been available for purchase on the island for the last few weeks, a period that corresponds to their harvest season. A high-demand product, Cubans are willing to pay high prices for them, currently around 200 pesos a pound. As a result, vendors are eager to get hold of them, even if it means acquiring them “under the table.”

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