Vicissitudes of Paying with Two Currencies / 14ymedio

The sign on the cash register states, “There are no coins, no pesos. Please cooperate.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 January 2017 – In March of 2014 the experiment of allowing customers to pay with Cuban pesos (CUP)* in hard currency stores, which previously only accepted Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC), began. The measure is being extended throughout the country and now includes food services and hotel reservations. However, the scarcity of small change has significantly affected the initiative.

There are no coins, nor pesos. Please cooperate,” reads a sign next to the cash register at this hardware store in Havana. In line, people check their pockets to count out the exact change for a hose, a light bulb, or a simple connector for the TV antennae. The worst are those who pay with Cuban pesos, which almost always implies change in coins of one, five or ten centavos in in CUC.

Compañero, don’t be so strict,” the clerk pleads with a customer who is protesting the difficulty. But then someone appears who pays with 25 centavo pieces in CUC for a brush that costs 3 CUC. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. At least this time they have managed to overcome the obstacles of the dual currency system.

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*Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos, worth about 4 cents US, and Cuban Convertible pesos, each worth 25 Cuban pesos, or about one dollar US. It has been a longstanding, but as yet unfulfilled, promise of the government to move to a single currency.