October 21, 2008
HAVANA (AP) — Cuban courts are getting tough on price gouging and other post-hurricane crimes, sentencing nearly one-fourth of people arrested so far to jail sentences, state media reported Tuesday.
The Communist Party daily Granma reported that tribunals are imposing maximum fines and sentences for people caught stealing government materials or trying to set prices above new government limits after Hurricane Ike and Gustav raked the island in late August and early September, causing US$5 billion in damage.
"The tribunals are acting with the greatest severity ... against those who try to obtain illicit personal gain from the situation created by the hurricanes," Eduardo Rodriguez Gonzalez, vice president of the Supreme People's Tribunal, told the newspaper.
Granma said the crimes also include the theft of downed telephone and electrical lines and the illegal slaughter of cattle and other large farm animals. The newspaper said nearly one-fourth of people tried in September and October received jail sentences.
Cuban authorities earlier promised to crack down on people who tried to take advantage of the hurricane hardships to get rich.
In late September, Cuba froze prices on some basic products sold at supply-and-demand farmers markets and government tries to control gouging and ensure citizens can afford to buy the food they need amid produce shortages.