Cuba moves to safeguard monopoly on imported goods
By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - Three years after opening up retail services, Cuba tightened the reins on Thursday with new regulations aimed at stopping the sale of imported goods at lower prices than those offered by the state.
In 2010, communist-run Cuba allowed retail services in the form of 200 individual activities from clowns, seamstresses, food vendors, taxis and the building trades, to small businesses such as restaurants, cafeterias, bed and breakfasts and home-based movie theaters.
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.
Others buy out available supplies at state stores and resell them at higher prices, which is also banned by the new regulations.
Cubans appeared to oppose restricting the sale of imported goods, but support putting an end to reselling local products.
"I am against the import ban. I can't tolerate the shoddy clothing the state stores sell, they are very expensive and of poor quality," said Xiomara, a Havana nurse who like others did not provide her last name.
"At the same time, things like plumbing and electric supplies, that they buy in the stores to resell at twice the price, that's unbridled robbery," she said.
The opening to small business, along with loosened travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba, has led to a flood of items being brought into the island by travelers. These items, from spices, sauces and beauty products to clothing, hardware and household goods, often are not available locally or are sold by the state at a minimum 240 percent markup. Continued...