Monday, November 8, 2004

HAVANA (AP) — The U.S. dollar, after a decade as the dominant currency for buying everything from shampoo to canned food to furniture, is no longer accepted in Cuba as of yesterday.

Cubans as well as tourists visiting the island must now use a local currency tied to the dollar to buy goods at previously named “dollar-only stores” selling food and personal hygiene products. The dollar will be rejected at restaurants, art markets, hotels and other businesses.

Cuba’s communist government announced the decision to eliminate the dollar from circulation Oct. 25, prompting thousands of Cubans to flood banks and exchange houses to turn in their dollars for Cuban convertible pesos.

A 10 percent surcharge to convert the U.S. currency into pesos also was to be implemented yesterday, but because of the huge demand to dispose of the U.S. bills, the Central Bank extended to Nov. 14 the period in which people could exchange without paying the surcharge.

The surcharge will not apply to other foreign currencies like the euro or the Canadian dollar, and there will be no surcharge to buy U.S. dollars.

Cubans and tourists in Old Havana lined up outside exchange houses and swelled out of banks yesterday to convert their dollars.

People in the street were entertained by a dachshund named Pillo Chocolate who barked at currencies other than the convertible peso.

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