Further Tightening the Screw

Warhol P

Bodega store where Cubans buy their rationed food items. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago I got the information* through my e-mail about a new tax being imposed on travelers who bring in food products into the country in their luggage. Such nourishment is NOT in commercial quantities, but is to help feed their families.

This tax was levied prior to 2008, but because of the impact of three powerful hurricanes that year, its collection was suspended. Now, however, that same tax is being reinstated.

I wonder why, after four years have elapsed, it’s now necessary to restore and enforce this tax on food, bearing in mind that although we haven’t been hit by any major hurricane recently, the current situation in Cuba with respect to food is extremely difficult.

I would like to know why they are tightening the screws on Cubans, whether the traveler is a resident on the island or abroad.

I am expressing my objection but I should explain that I have never benefited from this law because I don’t get food from anywhere in the world.

I’m speaking on behalf of thousands of Cubans who do have family members who come to the island with food and who in some way help soothe the difficult situation that we all know exists.

Now, suddenly, they have to start paying for bringing these so-called miscellaneous items.

Our current president has said we do need to end some of the existing subsidies and gratuities provided by the government. So I guess this is one of them, which came to us thanks to a couple of little storms.

But now, abruptly — after not having had bad weather for a long time, and apparently with Cubans having food readily at hand — it’s all over, the government has to eliminate the exemption.

Speaking of freebies, and to conclude, I ask what would happen if suddenly hundreds of Cubans who donate blood for free decided not to do that anymore?


Since 2008, as a consequence of damage and losses brought about by hurricanes that hit our country, and their economic and social impacts, temporary and exceptional allowances were allowed for Cuban travelers (residents of the island or not) to import food, with these items being made exempt from the payment of established customs duties (tariffs), an exemption that has been maintained to date.

Given that soon we will be marking four years of the application of that measure, it is necessary to restore, beginning June 18, 2012, the payment of customs duties on food imports by travelers, according to the regulation in Executive Order No. 22 of April 16, 1979 in the “Customs Duties of the Republic of Cuba for Non-commercial Imports.”

Similarly, in order to maintain organizational agility and efficiency, as well as to ensure the proper treatment of travelers during the exercise of customs operations, it is important to note that Resolution No. 11 of 2007 of the General Customs of the Republic in its regulation 5, subsection “c,” concerning miscellaneous items, provides an exemption of 10 kg of medicines provided these are separated from all other luggage items.

The General Customs of the Republic shall keep passengers informed about any specific directive issued in relation to food imports.


4 thoughts on “Further Tightening the Screw

  • Confirming what I said in a previous post, I learned this morning that shipping foodstuff to Cuba through agencies in Miami, will be going up from $4.00 a pound to $8.00. This is simply insane and benefits only parasites or those perpetuating corruption in Cuba, through the pain inflicted upon the average Cuban family.

    If Cuban Customs would simply apply the policy governing supermarkets and large outlets by which, they earn small amount of cash on large volume of sales as opposed to the corner store, which sells a few items at high prices, the Cuban government, those living abroad, our families, the satisfaction index, honesty and love would flourish in Cuba, putting out of business crooks and corrupt officials, hoping to get a kick-back for giving travelers a break…..ironically, against the government best interest.

    Imagine for a moment Cuban Customs Department earning $0.50 on every pound of foodstuff brought massively into the country, by encouraging thousands of visitors to do the same, while eroding the embargo?

    Stopping corruption and corrupting incentives in the country, which is devouring the nation moral fiber, should be the prime concern in every law or policy in place. No Police Force or Comptroller’s Office will ever be able to be everywhere all the time, to stop and eradicate this seven-headed monster that corrodes everything, everywhere.

  • Moses…it was I who is the so called “apologist” from Canada…and I would like to take this opportunity to correct you …the foods to which I was referring are actually not “imports” as they are available to me on BOTH sides of the border. That was the point of my comment…why should we, either as an American or a Canadian, be taxed on both sides of the border when the products are readily available on both sides. While I understand the frustration of this tax being brought in, as I have family still in Cuba, I was merely pointing out that Cuba is not the only country to do it.

  • I think this is a very serious, insensitive and cruel mistake, that will affect the lives of millions of Cubans living on both sides of the Florida straits. It is a known fact, that Cubans in general are a generous people, which translate itself by whatever foodstuff is brought in by any traveler, this will reach people far beyond his family circle.

    Who gains and who loose, when more need, hunger, despair, less happiness, smiles and satisfaction is the prevailing environment in our country?

    Is this not a paradox, contradiction and a world class absurdity for Cuba to put into effect a law, that follows the same precepts and guidelines of the Embargo, which is designed to deny the Cuban people all means of survival?

    Can thousands of dollars in income collected by Customs through this self-inflicted wound, solve any, of the myriad of pending social problems affecting the country?

    How can anyone boasting to have basic knowledge of life sciences and social behavior not understand, that this humane exchange between Cubans everywhere, has contributed like nothing else, to the betterment, reconciliation and strength of the Cuban family?

    Decades ago I learned a popular expression that symbolizes this tragic determination: “Penny Wise, Dollar Fool”

  • In an earlier post to Havana Times on the same topic, a Cuban apologist from Canada offered up the rationalization that similar tariffs are imposed by many countries when travelers entering the country bring food from the outside. In those cases, however, these “imports” are speciality foods which are most likely considered to be uncommon treats for the recipient who otherwise has access to a wide variety and quantity of quality foodstuffs. In Cuba, however, travelers entering Cuba will often bring very common foods such as frozen beef steaks, cans of evaporated milk, or powdered protein. Foods which are either, in Cuba, unavailable entirely or available at criminally high prices. The Cuban elite are able to receive these “common” foods through other means. The average Cuban must rely on family or friends who can travel to recieve and experience these foods. Like every other priviledge in Cuba (new car ownership, travel, internet access, etc.) access for the average Cuban, if available, comes at a price.

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