Cuba is looking to crack down on customs in a new set of limits that they believe will help curb import abuse. Rules that went into effect on Monday have set strict limits on the number of products allowed to be brought into Cuba. Along with the number limitations, there are also higher custom duties being charged. The government’s hope is that these stricter rules will actually stop or at least limit some of the abuses to the importation of merchandise.
When travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba were eased over the last five years, it allowed people to essentially become mules. It is estimated that these travelers were able to bring in over $2 billion in products every year. Everything from televisions and electronics to bicycles and car tires has been brought through airport customs. While many of these goods ended up with families of the travelers, others ended up on the black market. It is the black market trade that the Cuban government is hoping to curtail.
The checked bags of many individuals might contain loads of underwear, jeans or beauty products that people were bringing in for family or friends. The baggage carousels reminded many of a Target store being cleaned out. Now that will change.
As of Monday, restrictions are in place with limits on the weight, quantities and even prices of items coming into the country. The new restrictions limit individuals from bringing in merchandise valued over $1000. To make sure that these numbers are being met, the government has given customs officials’ price lists. Instead of having travelers show receipts for the merchandise being brought in, a set price is being used to determine the value of the goods. Even the duties being paid on merchandise being shipped into Cuba from abroad have increased under the new rules.
Many Cubans are unhappy with these new restrictions being implemented. In fact, Cuba’s crack down on customs means that the high end products that the people have come to expect will no longer be able to make it into the country. Complaints from citizens have continued to pour in as they address the issue of not being able to get new clothes or the tools they may need in order to work on their vehicles.
As these new rules go into effect, many individuals are already seeing a difference. Visitors to Cuba are coming in with fewer goods. They are no longer able to give to everyone in the family as they once might have. Where there was once an airport bustling with activity and trailers hauling off merchandise, there are now fewer bags, less imports and perhaps even fewer people.
While the citizens of Cuba are unhappy with these new rules, the government is hoping that this crack down on customs helps limit future abuses. While the government continues to address the people with examples of what they are trying to curtail and reasons for its decision to limit customs, many are still trying to determine what that means for them. Even the import stores are taking a hit from these changes and many will have to wait and see how this crackdown in Cuba plays out.
By Kimberley Spinney