Cubans angered by new consumer import restrictions
BY DANIEL TROTTA AND NELSON ACOSTA
HAVANA Mon Sep 1, 2014 1:44pm EDT
(Reuters) – Cuba has raised duties and restricted imports on consumer
goods brought in by air travelers or sent by mail, imposing greater
hardship for a fledgling private sector and angering people looking to
counter chronic shortages.
The new restrictions, which began on Monday, take aim at black market
dealers of goods that are hard to find on store shelves or come with
steep excise taxes. They also protect the state monopoly on selling
“Nobody likes this and the people are angry,” said Silvio Madero of
Homestead, Florida, who has visited his Cuban family six times over the
past four years, each time bringing merchandise.
The new rules jack up duties on the weight of mailed packages and
popular items such as TVs, which now cost an additional $100 for most
models. The duty is now $250 on a 32-inch (81 cm) screen, $400 for those
between 32 and 42 inches (106 cm) and $500 on even bigger models.
Cuban officials argue the new measures were necessary to curb a bustling
underground market that robbed the state of legitimate tax revenue.
Previously, people could bring in 40 pairs of pants but now the limit is
20. Similar limits have been imposed for stockings, socks, blouses,
shoes and other items.
“This measures puts the brakes on certain irregularities, considering
the indiscriminate amount of goods people were importing,” said Dionisio
Perez, a customs officer working Havana’s Jose Marti Airport.
Travel agents reported steep demand to travel before the new rules took
effect. Previously, travelers routinely arrived with bag after bag
stuffed with consumer goods.
At Miami International Airport, Cubans and Cuban-Americans would line up
for charter flights packing large-screen televisions, bicycle tires and
myriad items in short supply on the Communist-led island.
“If they want to do away with the black market, then they should take
measures against those people,” said Amarilis Valdes, a Miami resident
who came to visit her family in Cuba.
“It’s not all that drastic. You used to be able to bring in 30 pairs of
shoes. Now it’s 15,” she said.
The measures affect Cubans who run small businesses like restaurants,
bed-and-breakfast inns, transportation services and beauty parlors.
Many depend on travelers carrying suitcases full of goods because there
is no wholesale market, forcing entrepreneurs to shop in state retail
stores, where they pay a minimum 240 percent sales tax.
Some previous measures also proved unpopular, such as banning home 3D
theaters and the private sale of imported clothes and other goods last
year. Cubans welcomed an initiative to liberalize the restricted sale of
new cars this year but that turned to outrage when hefty taxes meant
family sedans were priced like European sports cars.
“The new law is no good,” said Jose Diaz Concepcion, a Cuban from the
western province of Pinar del Rio who visits Miami every three months.
“Going to Miami to bring back some trinkets is now ridiculous. How can
this be, man!”
(Editing by Kieran Murray and W Simon)
Source: Cubans angered by new consumer import restrictions | Reuters –