14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, November 20, 2023 — The longest line of the day in the Plaza de Carlos III had a reason this Monday: the store brought out automatic washing machines for 384 MLC (freely convertible currency, effectively $384 US). Several dozen people crowded the store, located in the part of the Centro Habana shopping center that accepts only foreign currency; the majority left with several washing machines.
At least three were bought, but in one case several men loaded six washing machines onto a single truck.
Although the price is equivalent to more than 92,000 pesos at the informal exchange rate, it was a golden opportunity: the same appliance, with similar characteristics, is sold for $480 on the online shopping site Revolico.
Everyone seems to win, but, as a side effect, in the network of hard currency markets there is a shortage of certain goods that are hoarded while waiting for a client to pay in foreign currency
Many digital shopping sites base their offers on devices purchased in the network of stores that only accept payment in MLC. The Cuban émigré pays for the product in dollars and the merchants guarantee delivery to their relative’s home on the Island. Everyone seems to win, but, as a side effect, in the network of foreign currency markets, certain merchandise is hoarded, waiting for a customer paying in foreign currency.
LED light bulbs, sandpaper, plumbing parts, microwave ovens and even pillows are among the offers that sell out quickly and immediately go to the informal network. Many times, the photo of the product that is posted in the online classified is from when it is still on display in the state store, with the original price covered of course.
The washing machines at Carlos III this Monday already belong entirely to the black market. The stores in MLC have become a direct route to supply these illegal trading networks.
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