HAVANA – An opposition group representing residents of Cuba’s rural areas said last week that they have wide backing for their campaign to end the use of two parallel currencies on the communist-ruled island.
Maura Iset Gonzalez, the head of the group known as “Flamur,” told reporters that the organization took a survey of 7,825 people nationwide and found that 99% “want a single currency in Cuba.”
“If you don’t have CUC (Cuban convertible peso), you can’t buy basic necessities like soap, cooking oil and other things. What we’re asking is that Cubans should be able to go into any establishment in this country with what they’re paid and buy what they need without it mattering whether they have Cuban pesos or CUC,” she said.
Cuba currently uses both the ordinary peso, worth less than 4 cents, and the CUC, which is equivalent to $1.08. Salaries are paid in ordinary pesos.
Flamur members said that last Nov. 21 they delivered to parliament 10,800 signatures on petitions demanding a single currency.
“We’re against the double currency that represents economic and touristic apartheid, and that’s why we launched this campaign that has had good results as far as the people are concerned – they show interest and see us as a kind of hope,” survey organizer Katia Martin Veliz said.
“We keep waiting for their (parliament’s) response, but meanwhile, we’ve gone on to a second phase, taking a survey by people’s age, sex, race and educational level, which has won 95% approval,” she said.
Among the matters the Cuban government has pending is a solution to the currency problem.
Acting President Raul Castro told parliament last month that “complex matters, such as the existence of two currencies and distortions in the systems of salaries and prices require in-depth study and will be carried out with the moderation, rigor and responsibility they deserve.”
According to Cuban law, citizens can present legislative proposals before the legislature if they have at least 10,000 signatures.
Cuban families are forced to turn to the black market to supply their basic needs on a median monthly wage of just 387 pesos (about $18), the government’s ONE statistics office said last year.
Raul Castro acknowledged in July that the average wage “is clearly insufficient to meet all the needs, so that it has practically ceased to fulfill the socialist principle that each contribute according to his abilities and receive according to his needs.”
The problem is aggravated, according to Cuban experts, by the use of two currencies on the island.
Raul, 76, has been in charge since July 31, 2006, when older brother Fidel Castro “provisionally” handed over power due to a serious gastrointestinal illness.