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Discriminatory prices: how much do things cost?

We Cubans pay in CUC or CUP, depending on our places of residence.

La Habana

The establishment of Cuba's two different currencies (CUC and CUP), and their different applications (1x24, 1x10, 1x2 and 1x1), according to the Government's convenience, besides sowing economic chaos, also features an immoral component for those affected by it.

Setting aside the unfair and all too well known problem of being paid wages in CUP and having to make purchases in CUC, as well as the exorbitant prices of products, there are other no less arbitrary manifestations, such as the 12.5% ​​(10 in taxes and 2.5 for the procedure) subtracted from every dollar when exchanged for CUC.

A Cuban citizen residing abroad must pay for his passport at a price four to five times greater than that paid by a resident on the island, which is 100 CUC, and must renew it every two years at the price of 20 CUC. That is, a passport, which is valid for only six years, actually costs him 140 CUC.

The resident abroad, after adding up the initial price and the costs of renewals, must pay much more. Moreover, those visiting the country must pay for everything in CUC starting right at the airport – perhaps as a subtle form of punishment for residing outside it, and as an indirect recognition that those living abroad can afford it, as they enjoy better economic conditions than in Cuba.

Visiting a museum has one price, in CUP, for Cubans, and the same figure, but in CUC, for foreigners and Cubans living abroad. The Museum of the Revolution, for example, costs Cubans 8 CUP, but 8 CUC (192 CUP) for foreigners and Cubans living abroad; attending the 9:00 PM cannon ceremony at the fortress of La Cabaña costs the same as the entrance to the aforecited museum; entrance to the National Aquarium costs 10 CUP and 10 CUC (240 CUP), in each case, while access to the Havana Zoo costs 2 CUP and 2 CUC (48 CUP), for the two respective groups.

These discriminatory prices also apply at many other cultural, musical, and athletic facilities, and more. Foreigners are provided medical care at clinics and hospitals that charge them in CUC. The most extreme example of this occurs when, at a low-price, run-down, state-run gastronomic establishment, the foreigner or Cuban resident living abroad is asked to pay 2 CUC (48 CUP) for a simple glass of cola, which is sold to a Cuban resident for 2 CUP.

Even at the Cementerio de Colón (Columbus Cemetery), access to which was previously free for visitors, foreigners are now charged 5 CUC, even if they do not form part of a group led by a tour guide. To ensure this they are only allowed to enter through the main door on the Calle Zapata, and they are barred access through any of the other three doors.

Foreigners, in addition to this monetary discrimination, face both institutional and private tourist harassment, in the form of roaming musicians, flower sellers, costumed characters; illegal vendors of cigarettes, medicines and rum; managers of rooms, restaurants and paladares; and even female and male prostitutes, who descend on them like a swarm of flies.

There is certainly nothing wrong with charging for entrance to certain sites of interest, in order to cover the costs of their maintenance, as the gratuity policy, erroneously applied for years, proved a failure. But equal prices must be applied, as is done in countries all over the world, and not through this form of monetary apartheid.

This evil, like an epidemic, has spread to taxi drivers, whether state or private, who charge everyone, for a trip to or from the airport (17 km), 25 CUCs during the day and 30 CUCs early in the morning, 15 o 20 CUC from Nuevo Vedado to Old Havana or vice versa, and the same if they cross the 23rd Street bridge or any of the tunnels towards Municipio Playa, or they travel to the eastern beaches (25 km). An individual taxi trip to Varadero (140 km) costs 100 CUC and, if a group, 20 CUC per person. In this last modality: Trinidad (335 km) costs 30 CUC, Viñales (189 km) is 20 CUC and Cienfuegos (254) is 25 CUC.

This monetary chaos, established and encouraged by the authorities, seems to be just one more of the many originalities of "prosperous and efficient socialism", now also described as "sovereign, independent and democratic", according to the latest official statements, despite the discrimination between Cuban nationals living on the island, those living off it, and foreign nationals.

This reality seriously calls into question the Cubans' proverbial hospitality, much touted in the State’s tourist propaganda.

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