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News Dispatch Says Cubans Soon Will Be Allowed Credit Cards

November 30, 1995

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Cubans soon will be able to say ``Charge it!″ just like their capitalist cousins with new credit cards allowing them to buy goods in U.S. dollars, a Cuban banker says.

Cubans at first will be able to use the cards only in the country’s dollar stores, Notimex, the official Mexican news agency, reported in a brief dispatch from Havana that was monitored in Mexico City.

Notimex quoted an interview that Marisela Ferreira, president of Cuba’s People’s Saving Bank, gave to the weekly publication Opciones. Ferreira did not say when the credit card program would begin.

The news about credit cards comes just days after the Cuban government announced that it will begin levying an income tax on the citizens who have profited most from the country’s crawl toward a market economy.

The official Cuban daily Granma reported over the weekend that Cubans who earn dollars as employees in the tourism industry and the country’s small but growing private sector will have to pay a tax of up to 50 percent on the foreign currency they earn.

Granma said that in coming days the Finance Ministry would announce a series of other new taxes on such items as rental property and transportation of cargo and passengers.

Levying taxes is expected to help Cuba to amass more of the hard currency it desperately needs.

The country continues to suffer from an economic crisis, brought on partly by the loss of its former East bloc trading partners and exacerbated by the 33-year-old U.S. trade embargo.

It wasn’t until 1993 that the government authorized the use of dollars to attract hard currency toward special government-run stores, which only accept dollars and sell to diplomats and tourists goods not available to most Cubans.

Previously, possessing hard currency was punishable by at least a year in jail.

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