Number of Cubans in Mexico Increases

News agencies have reported that the number of Cubans arriving in Mexico, both legally and illegally, with the intent to continue migration to the United States has increased since the first of the year.

The Miami Herald posted an article, “Mexico Detains Growing Number of Cubans,” in which it addressed Mexico’s problems with an increased number of Cubans.  Then, Latino Fox News, with cooperation by the Associated Press, in, “Soaring Number Of Cubans Are Entering The United States Through Mexican Border” addressed the same issue from the United States perspective.

The Miami Herald article starts off with this statement:The number of undocumented Cubans intercepted in Mexico on their way to the U.S. border has more than doubled in the eight months since Havana eased its migration controls, according to Mexican government figures.”
“Interdictions in Mexico of undocumented Cubans totaled 2,300 from January to August of this year, compared to 994 in the same period in 2012, according to the Interior Ministry.”
An acquaintance I have who lives in Cuba told me three years ago that he and his friends were trying to obtain visas to Mexico for exactly that reason.  But I haven’t heard the governments acknowledge it prior to now.
Some blame the increase in part on Cuba’s new leniency, which now permits Cubans to travel to other countries to visit, if they can obtain a visa from the other country.  The article says, “Legal air arrivals to Mexico by Cubans with tourist or migrant visas also rose from 30,750 in the first eight months of 2012 to 33,017 in the same period this year, according to Mexican government figures.”
When the Cuban government eased restrictions on travel, as of January, 2013, those “changes eliminated the need for Cuban government exit permits, allowed more minors to travel abroad and extended from 11 to 24 months the time that Cubans can stay outside their country without losing their residency and benefits such as free healthcare.”
“Cubans who arrive in the United States can now obtain permanent U.S. residency after 366 days under the Cuban Adjustment Act and then return to the island to retain their residency there. They can then travel at will between the two countries.”
“Thousands of Cubans arrive each year via the Mexico-U.S. border because it is the easiest way of obtaining entry under Washington’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Those who set foot on U.S. territory get to stay, but most of those interdicted at sea are returned.”
However there is an agreement between Mexico and Cuba, which has not been changed, that requires the return to Cuba of any Cuban citizen found in Mexico without documentation to travel, and who remains a legal resident of Cuba.
Cubans are paying large bribes to Mexican authorities to avoid being returned.
The Latino Fox article concentrates on the intent of the Cubans in Mexico to find their way to the U.S.
It says, “The easing by the Cuban government of restrictions on traveling abroad has led to a rise in the number of Cubans who try to enter the United States through the Mexican border.”
The changes in the Cuban financial system, the new ability to buy and sell houses and cars, and the easing of travel restrictions, do not seem to have improved every day Cuban life very much. But now Cubans wanting to leave have another viable option instead of taking a dangerous raft ride to the U.S. directly.
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No More Pesos Cubanos and Pesos Convertible in Cuba

It’s official. Cuba has announced the plan to eliminate the “confounding” dual-monetary system that forces Cubans to go to exchange kiosks to obtain the kind of pesos used at different retail establishments.  We reported a few weeks ago that this may be coming, and posted ideas from articles about the extreme complication that will result.

NBC news has posted the following story about this announcement.

“Cubans give muted welcome to end of 'convertible peso' dual currency system” 

Cuban government Granma newspaper has announced that the system, which has existed since 1994, when the collapse of the Soviet Union crushed the Cuban economy, is being phased out as part of reforms aimed at fixing the island’s economy.  The NBC article says, “Raul Castro has denounced the setup as a hindrance to the country's development since he took over from his brother in 2008.”

The article explains the dual system well:  “Workers are paid in domestic pesos [pesos cubanos] forcing professionals such as doctors and teachers to moonlight as cab drivers or private tutors to supplement their state salaries. Tourist pesos [pesos convertibles] are used for foreign trade, including imported electrical goods, and upscale restaurants. Neither currency is legal tender outside Cuba. Many imported goods can only be bought in CUCs, creating a social divide between ordinary Cubans and those with access to the much more valuable currency.”

You would use pesos cubanos, issued to workers, at a store like this to buy items in the ration book:

You would need pesos convertibles to buy in places like these:

The article quotes a cafeteria cashier, who said, "I do not care about if it’s the peso or whatever. What interests me is if everything improves – my financial situation, that of my people, and that there be free movement of money."

The article points out the risk of high inflation, and quotes Vicki Huddleston, a former U.S. diplomat who served as Principal Officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana for three years, who said, “In essence it means devaluation, affecting the value of pensions and remittances from overseas. It will be a difficult change to manage.”

Author of Book that led to "Mambo Kings", Dead at 62

Oscar Hijuelos, a Cuban-American novelist who wrote about the lives of immigrants adapting to a new culture, becoming the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1989 book, “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,” died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 62.

Havana Requiem Awarded Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Stanford law professor Paul Goldstein and his novel Havana Requiem have been awarded the third annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 19, in conjunction with the National Book Festival.
The prize, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Law School. It is awarded each year to the novel that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. Past winners include John Grisham and Michael Connelly.
The novel chronicles efforts by a lawyer, recovering alcoholic Michael Seeley, to help a group of aging Cuban jazz musicians and their families reclaim copyrights to their works. When his main client, Héctor Reynoso, goes missing, Seeley begins to realize that there is more to the story than music, and that a far deeper conspiracy is involved that might include both the Cuban secret police and his former law firm.
Goldstein, 70, who writes and lectures on intellectual property issues, is also the author of two other novels, Errors and Omissions and A Patent Lie. He said he sees a connection between his protagonist, Michael Seeley, and Harper Lee’s iconic lawyer-hero Atticus Finch.
“Apart from its many other virtues, To Kill A Mockingbird was the first novel to show me that it is possible to write about law and lawyers in a profoundly human, as well as literate, way,” Goldstein said. “More than 50 years later, it is impossible to study any of the better lawyer-heroes of today's novels without finding Atticus Finch looking back at you.”
“I like to think that Michael Seeley, the hero of Havana Requiem, embodies not only Atticus's integrity, but also his unvarnished nobility, and the Harper Lee Prize is not only a great honor for me, but evidence that perhaps I got it right.”
Judges for the contest included bestselling authors, Michael Connelly and Richard North Patterson; syndicated talk show host Katie Couric; Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Dr. Sharon Malone, physician married to Attorney General Eric Holder and sister of the University of Alabama alumna Vivian Malone Jones, one of the first two African Americans admitted and first to graduate from the University of Alabama. Havana Requiem also won our readers' choice poll, with 39.63 percent of the vote.
In addition to his teaching, Goldstein is a member of the bars of New York and California and since 1988 been of counsel to the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, where he advises clients on major intellectual property lawsuits and transactions. Since 1985 Goldstein has been the Lillick Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.
Goldstein has testified before congressional committees on intellectual property legislation, been an invited expert at international governmental meetings on copyright issues, and is a member of the editorial boards of leading intellectual property publications in England, Germany and Switzerland. He has served as visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law in Munich, Germany, and is a member of the founding faculty of the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center.

An End to the Off Dual Currency System in Cuba?

One of the most surreal features of the horrible financial situation under which Cubans live is that the government gives its workers and retirees one type of pesos, while tourists and those who work with tourists use another kind.  The government gives pesos cubanos, while the tourists use pesos convertible, known as CUC (pronounced with letters, like "say-oo-say", or "ku".  Travel books for tourists usually don't say much about it, since visitors aren't likely to come across pesos cubanos, unless they get scammed by trying to exchange money on the street, or they are shopping where the natives shop and enter a store that only takes pesos cubanos.  The value of a peso cubano is generally about 1/10th of the value of a CUC.

Just like there are money exchange kiosks  to convert from foreign money and CUC, there are those to exchange CUC and pesos cubanos. Items that are rationed, like rice, sugar, coffee, and some toiletries, are purchased in stores that only accept pesos cubanos, because that is how the Cuban government handles the rationing - money earned from the government is used to receive the reduced-price ration items.  The ration book is called the libreta.  Taxi drivers, owners of private bed and breakfasts (casas particulars) and others who work solely with the public, which means mostly foreigners, don't receive pesos cubanos, and pay tax on what they make.  So, if they want to go to a peso cubano store to buy something, like something in the libreta.

Everybody who works for the government, which includes doctors, receives only pesos cubanos.  They could make more money driving a taxi, but then buying items with CUC is more expensive.

One time when I was in Havana, I got pink eye.  I went to a pharmacy that took CUC (i.e. for tourists) on Paseo del Prado, and they didn't have any medicine for pink eye.  I returned to the casa particular where I was staying.  The owner did not have pesos cubanos, but went out to obtain some, and then went to a pharmacy that took pesos cubanos, and got my medicine. If a foreigner goes with a Cuban to any museum or national historical site, the foreigner pays with from one to 3 CUC, and the Cuban pays with the same amount of pesos cubanos.  Usually the guards are very nationalistic and won't accept a ten cent CUC for a single peso cubano.

At the annual international book fair, which takes place in Havana and other cities, a foreigner shouldn't think he or she will be able to actually buy a book.  It's not international in that sense.  One has to get some pesos cubanos to buy books.

The Associated Press has published an article about Cuba's intention to eliminate the dual monetary system.  The article is "Cuba Faces Challenges in Push to End Dual Currency."

The article explains the odd system, the problems it creates, and the ramifications and challenges involved in eliminating it.