HAVANA, Cuba — The “hard currency collection stores” [as the government itself named them], have started accepting both of the two Cuban currencies. But with the high prices of the products, and the miserable wages paid to Cubans, it does little to help out their pockets. Following the demise of socialism (1994), two currencies began to circulate in Havana: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) with parity* to the U.S. Dollar, and the Cuban Peso (CUP).
Opposition sectors launched the campaign “With the same money,” in the face of the gap between those who have CUCs and those who depend on CUPs. Although paying with either currency had been announced in the official press (which few read) those who went to La Copa market in Miramar on Wednesday were shocked. “Yes, starting today we are selling in both currencies,” said the clerk, who added, “this type of selling is starting as an experiment, and won’t be carried out in all the stores. Here at La Copa, you can pay with either currency only for perfume, cosmetics and personal care products.”
The measure doesn’t appear to benefit average Cubans. “Product prices will be based on the current exchange rate of 25 CUP for one CUC,” explained the La Copa worker, and she clarified, “Something that costs 2 CUC can be paid for with 50 CUP.” The ability to pay with either of the two currencies, in a country where the average salary is 450 CUP — some 18 CUC — simply means avoiding the lines at the exchange kiosks, called CADECAS.
Here are the average salaries in CUC by province for the year 2012: Ciego de Ávila ($20.6 0); Matanzas ($19.32); Cienfuegos ($19.00); Sancti Spiritus ($18.92); and Pinar del Rio ($18.84). The provinces with the lowest salaries were: Isla de la Juventud ($18.04) Guantanamo ($17.36) and Santiago de Cuba ($17.32).
*Translator’s notes: While the CUC is nominally worth one US dollar, exchange fees are added for tourists changing foreign currency — with an additional fee for those changing U.S. Dollars versus other world currencies — making it actually cost $1.10 or more.
Cubanet, 10 March 2014, Calixto R. Martinez Arias