New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan Garcia
Posted on July 23, 2014
On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will
begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking
of merchandise by relatives, friends and “mules”* through airports and
It’s one more turn of the screw. Every year since 2011 new regulations
have been put in place designed to halt the illegal importation of goods
destined for families and private businesses on the island.
In Spring 2012 the customs service began charging ten dollars for every
kilo above the twenty-kilo limit for personal baggage. For parcel post
the charge was ten dollars per kilo above the five-kilo limit.
According to Onelia, a customs official, “The new measures are intended
to halt the trade in goods brought in by mules.”
The military regime quite often resorts to demagogic rhetoric. It
eschews the military uniform and takes on the role of victim when
talking about the economic and financial embargo that the United States
has imposed on Cuba since 1962.
But the embargo does not justify establishing a string of regulations
that affect family well-being, private businesses and the quality of
life for a wide segment of the population.
Simply put, they are applying a set of prohibitions and laws in order
increase sales in the chain of hard-currency stores operated as military
businesses. It is a disgrace.
It is monopoly in its purest form. The government would now find itself
hard pressed to explain how these measures are benefitting its citizens.
Its aberrant customs rules, prohibitions on retail sales of imported
clothing and high taxes on the self-employed are anti-populist edicts.
I asked twenty-eight people — friends, neighbors, taxi drivers, public
and private sector workers — if they approved of these regulations.
Regardless of their political beliefs, the verdict was unanimous: all
twenty-eight were opposed to the current measures as well as to those
scheduled to take effect on September 1.
Some 80% of Cubans have a relative or friend in the United States or
Europe. Some benefit from regular shipments of clothes, food,
appliances, video games, computer tablets or smart phones. Others
receive occasional shipments.
But it is black market commerce, driven scarcity and a system of
economic production that does not satisfy demand, the most important
provider of the things people need.
HP laptops, plasma-screen TVs, instant soups and even major league
baseball hats arrive on the island from Miami, as do Russian car parts
and cloned satellite TV cards, which are banned by the Cuban government.
What businessmen, politicians and exiles living in the United States do
not mention when expressing support for relaxing or repealing the
embargo is the regime’s obsession with controlling our private lives.
We must navigate an internet packed with filters, watch TV channels that
the government authorizes, read books over which the mullahs of
censorship pass judgment and pay extortionist prices for cell phone service.
We should be talking more often about the internal blockade the
government imposes on its citizens.
Is it legal for a nation to stifle illegal commerce? Yes, it is. But
before punishing people, it should provide by offering range of products
and prices for the domestic market, living wages and efficient services.
This is not the case in Cuba. State workers earn around twenty dollars a
month. The “basic basket” of goods that a ration book covers barely
lasts ten days. Putting two meals a day on the table is a luxury in many
The State has become an insatiable overseer. It owns industries that
provide us with overpriced mayonnaise, canned tuna and queso blanco.
At no meeting of the boring and monotonous National Assembly did I hear
any delegate demand that the state set fair prices. Food prices in Cuban
hard currency stores are higher than those in New York.
The price of flat-screen TV or a computer is two and a half times what
it is in Miami. Tiles and bathroom fixtures are five times as expensive.
And a Peugeot 508 sells for an exorbitant price, comparable to that of a
Thanks to mules, relatives in Florida send us everything from powdered
milk to sanitary pads because the state cannot satisfy the monthly
demand of women or offer such products for sale at affordable prices.
This is what it’s about. The new measures attempting to stop trafficking
by mules are intended to benefit state enterprises and businesses, and
to increase their sales, though what becomes of the profits is never
They are only hampering the transfer of small ticket items, however, not
of dollars. Greenbacks are still welcome. The more, the merrier.
Before the Obama administration relaxes that relic of the Cold War
called the embargo, those speaking on behalf of the Cuban people should
ask Raul Castro for greater freedom and economic independence for his
And don’t get me started on the denial of political rights. That’s
Photo: From Univision Colorado.
*Translator’s note: Slang term for couriers of goods from overseas.
18 July 2014
Source: New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba – http://translatingcuba.com/new-measures/
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