Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

26 de Enero del 2000

A COW MAY NOT ALWAYS BE OF MUCH HELP. By Pura Castilla, Cuba Free Press.

Ciego de Avila.- Those Cuban farmers who have no land are allowed to own no more than four cattle, either cows or steers. And they are not allowed to let their animals graze near the railroad tracks or highways. If the owners take their livestock to a friend's farm then that person may have to explain why all his land is not in full production, which can be a serious problem.

Government "inspectors" are constantly on the watch, checking the tags each animal is supposed to wear. The tags are placed by the provincial cattle organization. If an animal has the wrong tag, a 500-peso fine may be imposed. If an animal is lost or stolen, a minimum fine of 500 pesos will be assessed against the owner, who is considered to be the responsible party.

A few days ago, in the municipality of Venezuela here in Ciego de Avila province, a rustler was arrested and confessed to stealing 36 steers over the last 10 years. The motive of such robberies is to butcher the animals and sell the meat on the black market. Even those buying such meat can end up doing some hard time in prison.

Many people owning livestock feel so helpless against the rustlers that many times they end up sleeping with their animals so as to protect them. In one case this correspondent heard about, a farmer found one of his cows bleeding profusely from a deep cut in her hind leg. Speculation is that his arrival had prevented the cow from being killed so the would-be rustler had slashed her as a kind of revenge.

Small-scale cattle owners have little in the way of choices. They can legally sell their cattle only to the government at whatever price a government buyer may want to pay. One such farmers interviewed by Cuba Free Press said, "A person can't even count on his own cow to help put breakfast on the table!"

Pura Castilla, Cuba Free Press.

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