14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 August 2017 – Currently, Cubans and foreigners residing in Cuba are permitted to pay customs duty on imported products in Cuban pesos only once per year. Subsequent import duties must be paid in Cuba’s other currency, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC), which is worth 25 times the Cuban peso (CUP). New rules will allow doctors, teachers and other “Cuban collaborators abroad” – that is professionals that the state “rents out” to other nations – to pay subsequent customs duties in CUP. Tourists and Cubans residing abroad must pay all customs duties in CUC.
The new measure from the Ministry of Finance and Prices seeks to stop the hemorrhaging of professionals who are working on “missions” abroad, which bring the country great economic benefits.
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, Cuba earned more than $11.8 billion from the export of services in 2016, although some analysts believe the figure is unlikely, given that medical personnel in some countries such as Brazil and Venezuela have “deserted” from their postings.
Many of the professionals that Cuba sends to third countries are contracted through Cuban government agencies, which keep the vast majority of the money paid by the other countries for their services. However, these “missions” are attractive to the workers because they offer the ability to purchase clothes and domestic appliances abroad, as well as paying a salary higher than they would receive on the island.
The new measure of the Ministry of Finance and Prices seeks to stop the hemorrhaging of professionals who are sent to work in “missions” abroad, which bring the country great economic benefits
“They [the government] know that we are tired of being exploited. This has been a demand we have made for a long time,” says a Cuban doctor living in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who asks to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Those who desire to pay the customs duty in Cuban pesos on a second set of imports will have the right to do so only if “the head of the Organ or Body of the Central Administration of the State to which the collaborator belongs” sends a request to the General Customs of the Republic, and it will only apply to those who have to return to Cuba for “official business,” because of a delay in their vacations, or because their work on the mission abroad has ended prior to the planned date due to changes in the workforce.
“In Venezuela, the situation is worse than in Cuba. The only reason that we come here at the risk of our lives is the chance to bring something to our families because we have to ask even to send our soap there,” an intensive care nurse in Caracas explains to 14ymedio.
This health worker, who fears for his life due to the political and economic crisis of Venezuela, does not explain how it is possible that, even with all the profits that he contributes to the Government of the Island, the authorities impose a fee on him to send cellphones to his family.
“They were stealing from us twice: first they took our salary and then, when we arrived in Cuba, they bled us dry at Customs,” says the professional.
According to the current import law, residents who import goods with a value between 50 pesos and 500 pesos have to pay 100% of the value of the product and goods valued between 501 pesos and 1,000 must pay 200%.