Cuba restricts inflow of foreign-bought products
Updated: 2014-09-02 07:39
By Associated Press in Havana(China Daily)
Cubans braced on Monday for a clampdown on the flow of car tires,
flat-screen televisions, bluejeans and shampoo in the bags of travelers
who haul eye-popping amounts of foreign-bought merchandise to the
country, where consumer goods are scarce and expensive.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans fly to and from the
island each year thanks to the easing of travel restrictions by the US
and Cuban governments over the last five years.
But Cuba-bound checked baggage has become an airlift of sorts that moves
nearly 2 billion of products ranging from razor blades to rice cookers.
The baggage carousels at Cuba’s airports often look as though they’re
disgorging the contents of an entire Wal-Mart or Target store.
Many family members bring special trailers to carry the bags of their
returning relatives, which can weigh hundreds of pounds and include
items such as bicycles and flat-screen TVs.
Now the pipeline may be narrowed considerably. The Cuban government’s
new rules, which take effect on Monday, are designed to take a big bite
of that traffic, sharply limiting the amount of goods people can bring
into Cuba in their luggage or ship by boat from abroad.
The government says the restrictions are meant to curb abuses that have
turned air travel, in particular, into a way for professional “mules” to
illegally import supplies for both black-market businesses and legal
private enterprises that are supposed to buy supplies from the state.
Among ordinary Cubans, reactions have ranged from worry to outrage that
their primary, and for many only, source of high-quality consumer goods
may be throttled.
The rules give a sense of the quantity and diversity of the commercial
goods arriving in checked bags. Travelers will now be allowed to bring
in one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24 bras instead of 48.
Four car tires are still permitted, as are two pieces of baby furniture
and two flat-screen televisions.
Cuban customs also bars passengers from bringing in items worth more
The new rules similarly increase the duties paid on goods shipped from
abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.
The authorities have assured Cubans that the vast majority of travelers
won’t be affected.
The change is intended “to keep certain people from using current rules
on noncommercial imports to bring into the country high volumes of goods
that are destined for commercial sale and profit”, Idalmis Rosales
Milanes, deputy chief of Cuban customs, told Granma, the newspaper of
the Cuban Communist Party, in Friday editions.
The government has justified the new rules with examples of prolific
mules, including one passenger who, it said, brought in 41 computer
monitors and 66 flat-screen TVs in a year.
Source: Cuba restricts inflow of foreign-bought