Black market for gas balls grows in Cuba as blackouts increase

Black market for gas balls grows in Cuba as blackouts increase

“I am selling a four-burner stove with its little ball included,” reads one of the many advertisements that appear on Cuban classified sites. In the midst of the energy crisis, and despite the measures taken by the Government, the black market for liquefied gas cylinders is growing to the same extent as the blackouts and the fear of worse times ahead.

Although the bullets that are distributed in a rationed manner should be strictly numbered, with a series of digits engraved on the metal, the lack of control has opened the loopholes for customers to “wash” their illegal cylinders in the state distribution networks themselves.

The stratagem involves having a contact at the Liquefied Gas Company belonging to the Cuba Petróleo Union (Cupet) or simply having a permanent marker, some ingenuity and even a little paint to retouch the cylinder and erase the written numbering. before putting in a new one.

“Here we were first guided by the number that is engraved on the upper part, but later the numbering began to be painted as in a stamp that is placed on top of the bullet and later it is already written with a permanent marker, that are easy to change,” warns an employee of a Cupet point of sale in the Centro Habana municipality.

In this regard, explains an employee of Attention to the Population of the Liquefied Gas Company on Águila Street, in Centro Habana: “You can accept either of the two numbers, the one on the metal or the one written on it, but What is mandatory is that it be the same number that is registered in the contract of the last time you bought the balita”.

The sales record is done by hand on paper, in most cases, and there is the possibility of making a mistake, amending the digits or changing them after a few days

The sales record is done by hand on paper, in most cases, and there is the possibility of making a mistake, amending the digits or changing them after a few days. Some cylinders show such a degree of deterioration that the area where the original numbering was once read is rusted, damaged by a blow or conveniently scratched.

“This is like removing the number from a revolver, as seen in the movies,” jokes a client who has managed to “wash” several illegal bullets through the state sale mechanism, simply demonstrating the deterioration of the numbering. “I tell them that I put it on the outskirts of the house, in the patio and sometimes the rain damages the paint and it has even rusted.”

The trick of placing an accepted number is no small thing. A 10-kilogram gas bag is sold on the black market for about 10,000 pesos if it is full, while in the official sales system, which can be regulated or released, it costs 180. An essential requirement to acquire the product is to present the empty container.

“Here in Ciego de Ávila they are very strict and are only guided by the number engraved on the metal,” he explains to 14ymedio a young resident of that city. “But people have been known to pay a premium for the employee to turn a blind eye and accept whatever bullet they get back as the correct one.”

A year ago, the company Cupet warned its clients in Santiago de Cuba about this fraudulent practice and announced that any LPG cylinder whose numbering “does not coincide with that registered in our controls, the cylinder will be retained until the investigation of its origin”.

The scarcity seems to have triggered creativity and the search for solutions even more. “I’m selling a gas ball, with its regulator and I’ll put you in contact with someone who refills it every time you run out. Round business. Three in one,” reads an announcement in a Telegram group where appliances, furniture and accessories are sold. other household items. “You’re not going to have a problem with the numbering,” she concludes.

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