The sight of Cubans traveling to Cuba, lugging duffel bags crammed with soap, toys and other consumer goods to give to their relatives, and bringing 40-inch television sets, bicycles, video-game consoles, even car tires, bothers me.
My annoyance revolves around two points:
1) Those travelers are aiding Castro’s Cuba. Showering their relatives with those items make those living in the island complacent with the regime. Why do anything to bring down Fidel’s tyrannical government when these Cubans enjoy special privileges and comfort thanks to their visiting relatives? It is easier to keep the status quo.
2) The unfairness of it all. Cubans without relatives willing to travel to Cuba or able to afford those gifts have to go without these commodities and struggle in a country that once enjoyed a rich economy and was considered a “jewel” in all of Latin America. What happened to equality? Isn’t that the banner under which communism propagates its doctrine?
Recently, Cuba imposed higher customs duties and stricter limits on the number of products allowed. The government alleges the new rules are aimed at black-market businesses and even legal private enterprises, which are supposed to buy their supplies from the state.
Will anything really change? The new restrictions allow travelers to bring in, among other things, 22 pounds of detergent instead of 44, 24 brassieres instead of 48 (22 brassieres? How many sisters, nieces, aunts, do these travelers have in Cuba?), and two flat-screen televisions.
Some travelers are furious.
The value of the items a passenger can bring can total no more than $1,000, with the estimate based on a long list of assigned prices, which rose sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach the $1,000 limit.
My sense is that, particularly, those who are bringing these products to infuse the black-market economy in Cuba, will pay the higher prices, and that even travelers who haul these items as gifts for their relatives will continue to do so. In both cases, Fidel is the winner. What will it take to oust a regime that has been oppressing the country for more than half a century?
That’s a mute question, particularly if we continue to help Cuba’s economy. Last year, between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion worth of goods were flown to Cuba in traveler’s baggage, according to a survey conducted by the Havana Consulting Group, a Florida-based private firm that studies the Cuban economy.
Is it a wonder that Fidel is still around?
How do you feel about travelers bringing all these items to Cuba? And the new restrictions?
(This blog is based on an article posted by AP)