By Paula Henriquez

Supermarket in Havana’s Playa district now selling in US dollars.

HAVANA TIMES – If life in Cuba was complicated with its dual currency system, just imagine what it’s like now with three. During a time when basic essentials have become a struggle of constant searching and never-ending lines, the government has announced a desperate measure with another payment option in US dollars (called Freely Convertible Currency or MLC).

The intention is pick up the island’s economy, which has been worn down for many reasons we already know about. This form of payment isn’t tangible here, not in the traditional sense anyhow, although it is an old practice in the rest of the world.

That’s to say, we don’t actually see this MLC, but we can spend it on products that are sold in this currency using new cards. “We can pay by card in supermarkets now” and that would be great if this latest payment option didn’t totally exclude the others.

Let me break it down for you: in a supermarket where you can pay with one of these new cards, you can’t pay with either of the other two Cuban currencies. This is where it becomes a great problem: since not all of us have access to US dollars, Euros or other accepted currencies.

These new cards work with currency from anywhere in the world and an official exchange rate in US dollars is apparently applied for each currency worldwide when purchases are made in these new establishments.

It’s worth mentioning the fact that this is only an option for Cubans living on the island with a relative or charitable soul who want to help them by transferring money from abroad. There is also the option of depositing the money yourself, but this is where we run into a dilemma: how can you deposit money yourself if it has to come from abroad?

Anyone who isn’t familiar with the mechanisms or dynamics of my country will ask themselves what the need is to make everything so complicated. Carry on using the two previous currencies in these establishments would make it a lot easier and viable to satisfy our needs.

That’s what I would think, but reality exceeds my basic logic once again. Products in these stores aren’t the same, the quality and variety of products is different. This is where the consumer runs into another problem of having access to basic essentials, which was already difficult before all of this.

I would like to think that this is a temporary solution to get hard currency flowing back into the country, at a time when the world is experiencing one of the worst crises in its history. I can understand that, but my experience of temporary solutions hasn’t been good.

There have already been so many that then carry on and are far from providing a solution, instead becoming one more burden we have to live with.

In short… I will carry on with my constant search in never-ending lines, paying in a currency that has less and less purchasing power because I don’t have a relative who sends remittances, or a charitable soul who would like to help.


Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

5 thoughts on “A New Option for Cuban Families?

  • Get paid in pesos. Convert to CUC (-4%), Convert CUC to MLC (-20%).

    Monthly pay 300 pesos = 11.5 CUC Convert to MLC = 9.2 MLC = 2lbs of Dutch Gouda cheese

    “We do hope to raise the standard of living to what the middle class has now.”

    Fidel Castro 22nd March, 1959

  • The fidelismo has finished off the Cubans, first they learned to squander the Russian subsidy and then not to pay the debts they acquired, the current situation is simply this: a group of very rich communists, with great power and a people full of miseries

  • The supply of hard currency is dependent upon visitors. Due to Covid 19, there are currently no visitors. The alternative way of supplying currency, is through the banking system or Western Union. But such monies are converted into CUC.
    It appears in consequence, that only that hard currency which is already in Cuba is available for public use, and as it enters into the system, will steadily diminish. Once it is exhausted, what then?

  • The article points out the outlandish government policies as in this case move from extreme economic hardship to an unimaginable, deplorable dystopian system.

    Paula, unfortunately for her, is experiencing this grievous situation which harms not only her but the majority of Cubans. As she poignantly points out where are the majority of Cubans going to get the foreign currency in order to obtain cards to legitimately enter Freely Convertible Currency (MLC)
    stores to buy basic day to day essentials.

    Where are the government representative councils strewn all across the island supposedly representing the people and their legitimate concerns? Are they not speaking up for the downtrodden citizenry? Again, the totalitarian elites have no economic concerns because their needs are being met and they are not impacted by their draconian policies. How can they in good conscience (perhaps not so good) rationalize literally expatriating their own citizens, some of them their own neighbors, from participating in the national economy to which all ordinary Cubans contribute?

    What does such a totalitarian policy do to society in general? It creates deep divisions, the haves versus the have not, jealousy among neighbors, envy, suspicion, increased criminal activity, psychological and physical harm, even outright violence. Exactly the once negative divisions that persisted, according to the Revolutionaries, in Cuban society prior to the Revolution are what the Revolution was to eliminate are now amplified on a grand scale throughout the entire island. The communist elites are either blinded by ignorance and/or purposely pursuing power for the sake of power.

    To add insult to injury even for those able to send American dollars to relatives/friends in Cuba, the American Helms Burton Law puts the brakes on any American bank sending money to Cuba and similarly any foreign bank with perhaps a branch in the USA will not be able to send money to Cuban relatives and friends.

    Cubans with relatives outside the island must now send money from outside the clutches of the USA Helms Burton Law. Some well intentioned donors may just not have the fortitude to continue helping monetarily and simply relent causing further hardships to the intended recipient(s).

    As Paula muses, will this economic strategy be temporary? I hope for her sake, yes. However, if the totalitarian elites see that the population simply capitulates and becomes complacent with the policy, this change will remain entrenched as long as it benefit’s the upper echelons of the communist Party.

    In any totalitarian state the upper elite in their newly professed, mismanaged, incoherent, incompetent monetary policy simply propagandize their policy to the population encouraging the citizenry, and even insisting via police action if required, to bite the bullet, tighten their belts, flag flying forward we go together towards that utopia over the hill . . . of course never to be realized nor fulfilled.

  • Could H.T. Be Spreading Fake NEWS. OK How is this Going To Help The People That Don,t Have YUMMY,s

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