MEXICO CITY – Cuba announced Tuesday that it will move toward ending a two-tiered national currency system widely criticized for creating a privileged class with access to a special peso.
The notice, published in Granma, the official Communist Party newspaper, was not unexpected: President Raul Castro announced his support for such a plan in July. But Tuesday’s announcement was short on details about how the country’s leadership plans to unify the regular peso, which is worth pennies on the U.S. dollar, and the so-called “convertible” peso, or CUC, which is pegged to the value of the dollar.
The dual-currency system began in 1994 as Cuba opened up to tourism to raise money after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but generated resentment as most Cubans were paid in the less valuable peso. The more valuable convertible peso is used by tourists and Cubans who deal with them via such services as hotels and taxis and at stores that do not accept the regular peso.
“The problem is that most of the good things that Cubans want to have can’t be bought with the (regular) Cuban peso,” Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s very unpopular. Cubans everywhere on the island complain bitterly about the lack of access to certain stores that only sell items based on the convertible peso.”