Saturday, July 25, 2009

Markets In Everything: Communist Cuba's Black Market Goes to the Web; Cuba's Craigslist/Ebay

From sex toys to old Chevys, Revolico.com takes communist Cuba's black market to the web.

HAVANA On this Communist-run island, the black market is a vast, irrepressible force, an underground river of unlicensed services, goods pilfered from government stores and coveted items carried in from abroad. Cuban authorities go to great lengths to curtail it; they cannot.

Over the years, buying and selling en la calle — in the street — has been practiced by generations of Cubans forced to make ends meet in a state-controlled economy where official wages are woefully inadequate and most forms of private commerce are banned.

But Cuba’s informal economy is an imperfect marketplace. Without advertising, it relies heavily on word-of-mouth, and its commercial activity tends to flourish in small circles — among neighbors, coworkers and other trusted acquaintances.

Then came Revolico.com. Its name essentially translates as “disarray,” and while Havana residents jokingly call it “the Cuban eBay,” the site is really closer to Craigslist. For Cubans who make a living through the black market, it's a godsend.


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