Just when you thought Cuba’s repressive (but benevolent, the media and “Cuba Experts” assure us) apartheid Castro dictatorship could not be anymore magnanimous and generous with their “reforms,” here comes another one.
Can you really have too much of a good thing?
Cuba imposes restrictions on goods in travellers’ luggageGovernment clamps down on large amounts of foreign-bought merchandise brought into the island
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 past five years.Their Cuba-bound checked baggage has become a continuous airlift that moves nearly $2bn (£1.2bn) of products ranging from razor blades to rice cookers. The baggage carousels at Cuba’s airports often look like they’re disgorging the contents of an entire Wal-Mart or Target store. Many families bring special trailers to carry the bags of their returning family, which often weigh many hundreds of pounds and include items such as bicycles and flatscreen TVs.
But the Cuban government on Monday is enacting new rules sharply limiting the amount of goods people can bring into the country in their luggage, and 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.
“People are really unhappy,” said Maite Delgado, a 75-year-old retired state worker. “All the clothes and shoes that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the US.”
The rules that come into effect Monday run to 41 pages and give a sense of the quantity and diversity of the commercial goods arriving in checked bags. Travellers will be allowed to bring in 10 kg of detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24 bras instead of 48. Four car tyres are still permitted, as are two pieces of baby furniture and two flatscreen televisions. Cuban customs also bars passengers from bringing in items worth more than $1,000. Rather than examining receipts, customs agents are given a long list assigning pre-set values to certain goods ($250 for a video-game console, for example.) Those prices rise sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach that $1,000 limit.
The new rules similarly increase the duties paid on goods shipped from abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.
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