Originally created 11/05/04

Cuba extends currency exchange



HAVANA - Because of the huge demand to dispose of the U.S. bills that were legal tender in communist Cuba for more than a decade, the Central Bank said Thursday that people will have an extra week to exchange their American money for a local currency tied to the dollar.

The need to extend the two-week transition period indicated that economic planners underestimated how many dollars had entered the country since they were made legal tender to help capture hard currency after the loss of Soviet aid and trade.

President Fidel Castro has said the elimination of the dollar from circulation in Cuba is necessary to protect the island nation from an increasing U.S. crackdown on foreign banks sending American cash to Cuba.

"The attitude of our people in the face of the most recent economic aggressions by the U.S. government has been an example of patriotism, discipline and confidence in the revolution," the Central Bank said in a note published in the Communist Party's newspaper Granma.

"Considering this exemplary reaction, and taking into account the repeated requests of the people, it has been decided to extend until Sunday, Nov. 14, the period stated" to exchange dollars into convertible Cuban pesos without paying a new 10 percent surcharge.

The previous deadline was Sunday.

The Central Bank note said the rest of the resolution issued Oct. 25 to eliminate U.S. dollars from general circulation was unchanged.

Banks will open Saturday and the weekend of Nov. 13-14 to help Cubans change their U.S. dollars into convertible pesos, it added.

The currency switch appeared aimed at eliminating Cuba's dependence on the money of its No. 1 enemy - the United States - for hard currency reserves, building up new sources of convertible foreign funds and reasserting control over the economy.

The United States has recently moved to restrict the flow of American currency into Cuba.