Tax on food and medicine imports lifted in Cuba following the biggest anti-government protests

The Cuban government has temporarily waived import tariffs on medicine, food and other essentials following massive protests. From next Monday, there will be no restrictions on the importation of these goods into Cuba. The announcement was made by Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marro Cruz. He said that many passengers had asked for this and that was why the decision was taken.

The announcement was made following the biggest anti-government protests on the Communist-run island in decades. Thousands took to the streets of Cuba the last t day to protest the lack of food and medicine, inflation and the government’s failure to stop the coup. The main demand of the protesters was that no customs duty be imposed on the essentials brought by those coming to Cuba. There will be no limit on such goods brought in by travellers from Monday. However, the measure is only temporary and has been derided as “too little, too late” by critics of the government. Travellers to Cuba can currently bring up to 10kg of medicine into the country tax-free. However, they must pay customs duties on the limited amount of food and personal hygiene supplies they are allowed to bring in. Scrapping the import duties had been suggested by some Cubans as a way to ease the shortages of medicines and food on the island.

The government had introduced the taxes to cut down on “mulas” (Spanish for mules), the name given to couriers who travel to Cuba from abroad heavily laden with foreign goods and currency. But the measure not only hit Cubans who turned to the “mulas” to bring them items they could not get hold of in state-run shops, but also those who relied on relatives abroad to provide them with badly needed food and hygiene products.