Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to create a black market

Neither would be flattered to be in each other’s company, but the presidents of Cuba and the United States have something in common: an ability to create black markets in activities that are innocuous and beneficial, and should be legal.

In the case of President Bush, his 2004 regulations that tightened limits on the contents of gift parcels sent to Cuba have created a black market in package delivery services, since only food, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, receive-only radios, and batteries for radios – and now cell phones – are allowed to be sent from Cuban Americans to their relatives in Cuba, only once per month, and with a $400 limit on the content’s value. Apart from the black-market package delivery services, there are black-market remittance carriers, and there’s the flow of Cuban Americans who evade U.S. controls by traveling through third countries to visit loved ones.

As the Herald reports, the companies that have U.S. Treasury Department licenses to send packages legally to Cuba are under pressure, and business is suffering; “On every corner there’s a pirate company,” says the operator of one of those businesses.

Competition from the U.S. Postal Service is also hurting the licensed private companies, and one implies that the post office gains a competitive advantage because it doesn’t check contents of packages, with the result that “many people are taking advantage of the situation and are sending clothes.” (Clothes are not on the list of items the U.S. government permits in gift parcels.)

My impression is that for Cuban Americans, restrictions on travel and remittances are more important than the gift parcel regulations. As candidate, Senator Obama promised to end travel and remittance restrictions, and was silent on the gift parcel issue, but an easing of those regulations would fit with the desire he has expressed to allow Cuban Americans to help their relatives on the island and decrease their dependence on their government.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post. We can't wait to visit our family (mother and father) in Havana. The bush restrictions have been very hard on our family. We have been made to feel like outlaws in our own country(USA) just for wanting to visit our blood /family elders in Cuba!

We didn't come here for poltiical reasons,and didn't recieve and 'extra' benefit that other immigrants (e.g. mexico) don't receive. We've played by the rules, and only want to visit family in cuba to maitain personal/familial bonds, a human right!

We will thank Obama so much if he takes away restrictions. It moral, and correct... regardless of what havana does... two wrongs don't make a right.

The CAs without family in cuba - tough sh*t - you have made hell on my life (castro has too, but you exacerbate it!).

Anonymous said...

your right the cubans living in US should be able to visit their relatives. then again, any american who wants to visit cuba should be able to without restrictions. hopefully obama will end restrictions not just for cuban-americans, but for all americans. and after that, lift the criminal blockade.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to clutter this space with a request of such a personal nature, but can someone please direct me to a legal and trustworhy source through which I can send a packet of food to my family in Cuba?