News / Economy

Conflict Brews in Cuba Over Sales Ban of Imported Goods

FILE - Cuba's President Raul Castro, left, and Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel
FILE - Cuba's President Raul Castro, left, and Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel
Reuters
The Cuban government appeared headed for its first serious clash with the island's newly created “non-state” sector of small businesses over a prohibition on the sale of imported clothing and other goods.
 
The decree issued last week potentially affects some 20,000 small businesses and their employees who sell clothing, hardware and other goods brought in informally by travelers, some of whom visit the Caribbean island regularly carrying merchandise from the United States, Spain and Latin American countries.
 
Three years ago the government of President Raul Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel in 2008, opened up retail services to “self employment” in the form of 200 licensed activities from clowns, seamstresses, food vendors, taxis and the building trades, to small businesses such as restaurants, cafeterias, bed and breakfasts and entertainment.
 
The government said the measure aimed at absorbing excess state labor, improving services, eliminating inefficiencies and bringing black-market activity above ground.
 
There are now 436,000 self-employed people, of which around 100,000 work as employees of small businesses, according to the government.
 
Enterprising residents have taken advantage of some of the categories, for example seamstress and household supplies salesman, to offer imported clothing and supplies in greater variety and at lower cost than the state.
 
Entrepreneurs, their employees and clients waxed furious over the clothing sale prohibition this week in the Central Havana district of the capital where a few dozen vendors had set up shop on a vacant lot to sell clothing, shoes and undergarments.
 
“We call on the authorities to reconsider. We have a lot of product and money invested in this,” Justo Castillo, a representative of the official labor federation which has tried to organize the self employed, said.
 
“Banning this means unemployment for these people forcing them to do whatever. They will move into the black market, return to illegal activity,” he said, as the crowd that had gathered applauded.
 
Castro has instituted a series of market-oriented reforms to Cuba's Soviet style economy where the state still employs 79 percent of the 5 million-strong labor force.
 
Public Clamor
 
Last week's measure appears aimed at protecting the state's monopoly on the wholesale and retail sale of imported goods, which has resulted in widespread black-market activity due to exorbitant prices and shoddy quality.
 
The regulation includes a new list of authorized types of self employment and their descriptions, with the addition of phrases to stop the resale and importation of goods.
 
For example, the description of a seamstress now has added, “does not include the sale of manufactured or imported clothing.”
 
The general public is also up in arms over the measure.
 
“There goes the chance to buy a pair of shoes or jeans that are worthwhile,” said retiree Ramon, who asked his last name not be used.
 
The public clamor is so loud that it appears to have reached communist authorities.
 
Blogger Yohandry Fontana, who is closely identified with the government, released a series of tweets this week criticizing the measure.
 
“Bad news,” he said in one of the tweets. “Wouldn't it be easier, I ask, to approve the sale of imported clothing by the self employed than push this activity into the black market?”
 
The new measure has yet to be enforced, at least in Havana even though authorities say it is now the law of the land.
 
JosDe Barreiro Alfonso, an adviser to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, said in an interview on Thursday with the official Juventud Rebelde newspaper that vendors would be visited on an individual basis.
 
“It is an effort to have an individual conversation and gain their understanding of the law,” he said.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8033
JPY
USD
117.19
GBP
USD
0.6372
CAD
USD
1.1634
INR
USD
63.622

Rates may not be current.