Cubans gather support for monetary reform
Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:01pm EST
HAVANA (Reuters) – A group of dissident women handed in a petition
signed by 10,738 people on Wednesday demanding an end to Cuba's dual
currency system which they said caused poverty and inequality.
Seven women took the petition to the National Assembly, which is obliged
by Cuba's constitution to consider any legislative proposals requested
by more than 10,000 citizens.
In Cuba's socialist society, people get paid in Cuban pesos but need a
harder currency called the convertible peso –worth 24 times more– to
buy most consumer goods.
"We demand for all the nation that the Cuban peso be an acceptable means
of payment in every establishment without exception," the petition said.
The signatures were gathered by members of the Latin American Federation
of Rural Women, a group that receives support from Cuban exile
organizations in Miami.
"We expect a positive reply from the government because this is a demand
that all Cubans are making," said Maria Antonia Hidalgo, from the
eastern province of Holguin.
Cuba introduced the convertible currency in 1994 when Cubans started
receiving remittances from their relatives in Florida to help them
weather a deep economic crisis triggered by the break-up of Havana's
benefactor, the Soviet Union.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro said the measure was temporary and the
government's goal is to eventually unify the two currencies when
economic expansion permits.
The campaign for monetary reform recalls a signature drive called the
Varela Project led in 2002 by prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya, who
gathered 25,000 signatures to petition for a referendum on civil
liberties in Cuba.
The Assembly rejected Paya's request and Castro mobilized for a
referendum to preserve Cuba's socialist state.
The Cuban government does not acknowledge the existence of dissidents
and labels all opponents as "mercenaries" on the payroll of the United
States, its ideological nemesis.
Some telephone calls made by the organizers of Wednesday's petition to
the National Assembly came from the U.S.-funded Office of Cuba
Broadcasting in Miami, which oversees anti-Castro radio and television
broadcasts to Cuba.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)