Castro's Tourist Scam

Monday, June 15, 2009
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
 
Because it's a poor country, there is very little for a tourist to buy in Cuba to bring home, which is probably just as well because your money disappears as soon as you land at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.
 
All foreigners are required to exchange their currency for Cuban Convertible Pesos -- CUCs -- with the Castro government taking 20 percent off the top.
 
Cubans themselves spend National Pesos at peso stores on subsistence items. In this dual economic system, tourists are spending CUCs for hotel rooms, meals, entertainment, taxis, cigars, and rum. And since regular Cubans can't stay in hotels and can't afford to eat in tourist restaurants, they drive the taxis and are the entertainment. Like everything in Cuba, it works most of the time -- but barely.