If there was any doubt that the excessive control and limits imposed by the Cuban regime on property are not only ineffective in curbing the theft and illegal slaughter of livestock, but actually end up causing it, and even turning producers into criminals, the Government itself demonstrated this with a recent event.
At the end of August the Facebook page "Fuerza del Pueblo," a profile associated with State Security and whose posts seek to whitewash the image of Cuban law enforcement, reported that a farmer identified as Roberto had filed false complaints with the Police, alleging animal theft, and later expressed remorse.
The farmer's aim had not been to collect on an insurance policy, as happens in other countries, but rather to avoid a fine of 10,000 Cuban pesos for each animal that was missing, as per Decree Law 70/2022.
This regulation, published in the Official Gazette of the Republic in August of last year, is an updated version of Decree 225, which set the amounts of fines for "not complying with measures approved to boost agricultural production in the country" according to the new decree law.
The violations for which the regulation provides for fines of between 5,000 and 2,000 pesos per animal include the following: failure to report to the corresponding Livestock Registry, within the established period, current data related to livestock; the possession of undeclared livestock or any not duly registered in the Livestock Registry; buying or receiving livestock for any reason without the authorization of the competent state agency; or selling or transferring it; and, "with the corresponding authorization to slaughter livestock, when necessary," failing to comply with the rules established for their slaughter and the use of their meat.
In an inspection of the ranch of the aforementioned Roberto, it was detected that it was overgrown with marabou (an invasive species) and that the animals were not under control. Another important number was missing, which the farmer intended to report as stolen.
It is likely that Roberto reported the false thefts in order to later slaughter and consume or sell his animals on the black market. This was done a month earlier by producers from Villa Clara, who were sanctioned by the provincial authorities with fines and the confiscation of livestock.
That fact was also announced by the Fuerza del Pueblo site, which stated that "if all the agencies involved rigorously enforce what this Decree dictates, we are sure that the recklessness and lack of uncontrol many criminals demonstrate will end, and the crime of livestock theft and slaughter will decrease, since each owner will have to take better care of their livestock."
But, why does an owner have to sell their own livestock illegally? Because it's not really theirs. No Cuban rancher really owns their animals, as is demonstrated by the fact that they need state authorization to sell or slaughter them.
Only after 2021 were Cuban producers able to slaughter livestock with a view to their consumption or sale, but only one out of every three animals in their herds.
Those who have not augmented their herds, but have complied with the delivery of meat and milk, can slaughter "according to the proportion established," Minister of Agriculture Ydael Pérez Brito said two years ago.
Cattle owners can only sell their milk production to the State, at the price determined by it. It is common for these producers to complain about late or deficient payments. They, meanwhile, must fulfill the commitments they have made to it in order to be able to slaughter animals.
Meanwhile, Fuerza del Pueblo's two posts clash with frequent complaints by ranchers who have had animals stolen, and seen little interest by the Police in catching those responsible.
In Pinar del Río, a victim of such an event told the state press last May that the police had told him and other members of the cooperative that they had to "keep watch over the animals;" that is, monitor them 24 hours a day.
One of the most serious problems with these events is that the Police require several witnesses to prosecute a thief who may have been caught red-handed. In a report published by DIARIO DE CUBA, several farmers stated that this gave thieves a certain degree of impunity.
Thus, when farmers are victim of animal theft, they are helpless. Thieves can go unpunished, and they are left suffering the loss, in the best cases, of their cattle; in the worst, their lives: in January of this year Yordany Díaz was killed when he confronted thieves who were stealing a cow from him and dismembering it right on his property.
Ranchers are fined if they do not have the resources to control their livestock on their properties, or if they sacrifice or sell it without asking for authorization.
The fear of being robbed has forced producers to change their breeding habits. "Having to protect animals from theft, we are forced to lock them up. But it's important for cattle to be loose at night, to eat. The way they are, it looks like we have them in a concentration camp," the director of Livestock of at Ministry of Agriculture, Adrian Gutierrez Velazquez, told the state media source Cubadebate in April.
"Animals locked up from 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon until the next day deteriorate," he added. In Villa Clara alone, the lack of adequate food led to the death of 22,000 head of cattle in 2022, according to authorities.
Without the possibility of acquiring adequate feed, because the State does not produce it, or have the resources to import it, and forced to lock up the animals to avoid theft, it is difficult for Cuban producers to increase their livestock numbers enough to fulfill their commitments to the State and earn the right to slaughter their own livestock for its consumption or sale.
Ignoring ranchers' struggles to breed livestock, and approving a regulation that, far from freeing them from obstacles, increases control over them, the legislators responsible for Decree Law 70/2022 created conditions encouraging producers to commit crimes.
Threats of excessive fines and restrictions on the rights that farmers can exercise over their animals also undermine one of the regulation's objectives: "to boost agricultural production in the country."
History has already shown that invasive policies that violate people's legitimate rights to their property do not curb such acts, which the regime has designated as crimes.
In Cuba, the sale of homes and the sale of vehicles were illegal for decades. To legalize the goods acquired people resorted to fraudulent marriages, falsified documents, and generated a complex system of corruption that involved state officials. In the end the regime had no choice but to legalize those businesses.