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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 06:21 GMT 07:21 UK
Cuba businesses 'cheat clients'
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

Havana. File photo
More than 22,000 Havana's businesses have been checked
More than half of all the state-run enterprises inspected in Cuba's capital Havana have cheated their customers, a Cuban communist newspaper has reported.

More than 11,500 businesses were selling their products at higher prices than advertised, or delivering lesser quantities, the Juventud Rebelde said.

The report's tone is unusually frank. The state media tends to be dominated by congratulatory stories about Cuba.

Last week, acting President Raul Castro said corruption was a serious problem.

'Rampant corruption'

The two-page article in the communist youth newspaper reports what for most people living in Havana will be a familiar story.

Inspectors went to thousands of state-run enterprises and consistently found customers being short-changed.

map

The offences included beer mugs being only partially filled, taxi rides being charged at almost five times the going rate, government price lists being hidden, even shoe repairers charging vastly inflated rates.

But in recent months the government has expressed its determination to deal with what it concedes is rampant low-level corruption across the economy.

Last November, President Fidel Castro - who is now recuperating from intestinal surgery - warned that corruption had the power to destroy the revolution itself.

He condemned the fact that in some areas half of all the fuel in state petrol stations was being stolen.

'Legitimate supplement'

His brother Raul last week criticised workers' leaders for failing to do enough to stop stealing from state enterprises.

Many Cubans tend to shrug their shoulders when asked about corruption.

With the state salary here at about $15 (8) a month, and many essentials such as cooking oil and soap only available in hard currency, plenty regard skimming off what they can from their jobs as a necessary - even legitimate - supplement to their incomes.

They are less happy when they find that, as consumers, they are also being ripped off.


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