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Cuba limits amount of goods in travelers' luggage

Nearly $2 billion of products brought into Cuba each year

Published On: Sep 01 2014 04:50:31 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 01 2014 06:37:36 PM EDT

Cuba government cracks down on goods brought into island by travelers

AGAINST FOUR OF THE FIVE FILM CROW MEMBERS WERE NEVER EVEN FILED DISPLAY CRACKDOWN BY THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT TAKING EFFECT MAKING I MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR CUBE APP-AMERICANS TO GET THE GOODS THEIR RELATIVES RELY ON ONTO THAT KINDLY. LOCAL10'S ANDREW SPREES LIVE TO EXPLAIN. IT'S A DISASTER? YEAH. THE PEOPLE NOW IS PISSED OFF IN THE STREET. Reporter: WORD SPREAD QUICKLY ACROSS MIAMI. CUBAN GOVERNMENT NOW CRACKING DOWN ON WHAT GOODS AND HOW MUCH TRAVELERS ARE ALLOWED TO SHIP FOR BRING TO THE ISLAND WHEN TRAVELING. ABOUT THE PEOPLE SAY I WANT TO TAKE WHAT I WANT. WHY I NEED TO TAKE IT NOW THE GOVERNMENT IT. ONLY TEN PIECE. Reporter: SONIA HERNANDEZ OWNS ONE OF BUSINESSES ALONG EIGHTH STREET WHERE PEOPLE BUY IN BULK, CLOTHES, SHOES, BASIC GOODS TO TAKE BACK TO THEIR FAMILIES IN CUBA. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FLY TO AND FROM THE ISLAND EACH YEAR TAKING THINGS LIKE HATS, TVs, EVEN WHOLE KITCHEN SINKS AS QUALITY PRODUCTS ARE BE EXPENSIVE AND HARD TO COME BY THERE. IT'S ONE REASON HERNANDEZ SAYS SHE LEFT. EVERYBODY COMING FOR DIFFERENT LIFE, YOU KNOW, FREE, SPEAK FREE LIFE. Reporter: THE NEW RESTRICTIONS CUT QUANTITIES AND PRODUCTS YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU, FOR INSTANCE YOU CAN ONLY SHIP OR TRAVEL WITH 22 POUNDS OF DETERGENT INSTEAD OF 44. 24 BRAS INSTEAD OF 48. ET CETERA. YOU CAN'T SEND OR BRING ITEMS WORTH MORE THAN $1,000 BACK WITH YOU, EITHER. THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT SAYING THE MOVE IS MEANT TO CURB ABUSES THAT HAVE TURNED AIR TRAVEL INTO A WAIVE ILLEGALLY IMPORTING SUPPLIES. SOME SAYING THEY NEED TO KEEP SENDING SUPPLIES TO THEIR FAMILIES, THOUGH. YOU CAN IMAGINE THROUGHOUT THE DAY THIS HAS BEEN A HOT TOPIC IN SOUTH FLORIDA, NOT ONLY DO SO MANY PEOPLE SPECIFICALLY IN MIAMI HAVE FAMILY IN CUBA BUT A LOT OF BUSINESSES LIKE THIS ONE HERE BEHIND ME, THEIR CUSTOMERS PRETTY MUCH ONLY BUY IN BULK, CLOTHING, DIFFERENT SUPPLIES. SEVERAL OTHER STORES ACROSS THE STREET SO THAT THEY CAN TAKE IT

HAVANA -

Cubans braced Monday for a clampdown on the flow of car tires, flat-screen televisions, blue jeans and shampoo in the bags of travelers who haul eye-popping amounts of foreign-bought merchandise to an island where consumer goods are frequently shoddy, scarce and expensive.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans fly to and from the island each year thanks to the easing of travel restrictions by the U.S. and Cuban governments over the last five years. Their Cuba-bound checked baggage has become a continuous airlift that moves nearly $2 billion of products ranging from razor blades to rice cookers. The baggage carousels at Cuba's airports often look like they're disgorging the contents of an entire Wal-Mart or Target store. Many families bring special trailers to carry the bags of their returning family, which often weigh many hundreds of pounds and include items such as bicycles and flat-screen TVs.

But the Cuban government on Monday is enacting new rules meant to take a big bite of that traffic, sharply limiting the amount of goods people can bring into Cuba in their luggage, and ship by boat from abroad. The Cuban government says the restrictions are meant to curb abuses that have turned air travel in particular into a way for professional "mules" to illegally import supplies for both black-market businesses and legal private enterprises that are supposed to buy supplies from the state.

Among ordinary Cubans, reactions have ranged from worry to outrage that their primary, and for many only, source of high-quality consumer goods may be throttled.

"People are really unhappy," said Maite Delgado, a 75-year-old retired state worker. "All the clothes and shoes that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the U.S."

The rules that go into effect Monday run 41 pages and give a sense of the quantity and diversity of the commercial goods arriving in checked bags. Travelers will now be allowed to bring in 22 pounds (10 kilos) of detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24 bras instead of 48. Four car tires are still permitted, as are two pieces of baby furniture and two flat-screen televisions. Cuban customs also bars passengers from bringing in items worth more than $1,000. Rather than examining receipts, customs agents are given a long list assigning pre-set values to certain goods ($250 for a video-game console, for example.) Those prices rise sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach that $1,000 limit.

The new rules similarly increase the duties paid on goods shipped from abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.

Authorities have taken to the airwaves and pages of state media in recent days to assure Cubans that the vast majority of travelers won't be affected. The change is intended "to keep certain people from using current rules on non-commercial imports to bring into the country high volumes of goods that are destined for commercial sale and profit," Idalmis Rosales Milanes, deputy chief of Cuban customs, told government newspaper Granma in Friday editions.

The government has justified the new rules with examples of prolific mules including one passenger it said brought in 41 computer monitors and 66 flat-screen TVs in a year.

Between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion worth of goods were flown to Cuba in traveler's baggage last year, with the average flyer bringing in goods worth $3,551, according to a 2013 survey of 1,154 Cuban and Cuban-American travelers conducted by the Havana Consulting Group, a Florida-based private consultancy that studies the Cuban economy.

"It's sustenance, support that greatly aids in the survival of the Cuban family," Consulting Group President Emilio Morales said. "Along with cash remittances, it's the most significant source of earnings for the Cuban population, not the salaries the government pays."

While his study did not look at the final destination of travelers' goods, Morales said he estimated based on his knowledge of the phenomenon that about 60 percent went to families and 40 percent to black-market retailers.

With foreign reserves dropping sharply over the last two years as Cuba tries to pay off sovereign debt and make itself a more attractive destination for foreign investment, Morales said, the government is desperate to reduce the flow of goods and push Cubans' relatives abroad to send help in the form of cash remittances, which are subjected to hefty government fees. Limiting informal imports also would presumably help boost business in state-controlled stores.

The rule change already has had an effect in Miami, where many stores are dedicated to selling goods to island-bound Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

"I haven't sold almost anything this morning," said Diana Calzadilla, 28, a cashier at Cadalzo Fashion, a store in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood that sells discount clothing and accessories to travelers on their way to Cuba. "People look around but they don't buy anything because they're not sure how much they're going to be able to bring."

Several "mules" have commented that they are going to look into other ways to make money, she said. At least one customer, she said, appeared decided.

"It was their last trip," she said. "They don't know if they'll go again."

Fueling system problem causes delays at Miami International Airport

Problem appeared to be some type of electrical issue with pumps

Author: Matthew Fuhrman, Producer, MFuhrman@wplg.com
Troy Blevins, Online Editor, Producer
Published On: Aug 30 2014 03:38:46 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 31 2014 06:35:33 PM EDT
MIA Miami International Airport
MIAMI -

Problems with the refueling system at Miami International Airport caused widespread delays Saturday.

The airport tweeted that technicians were on site working on the problem shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday.

The problem appeared to be some type of electrical issue with the pumps, according to MIA airport officials. There were delays that lasted about 5 to 10 minutes.

Airport officials said around 5 p.m. their fueling system began working again. There were 12 delayed outbound flight and six diverted arrivals to other airports.

Families of frustrated passengers told Local 10 some planes were making the short flight to Fort Lauderdale in order to refuel before continuing on to their final destinations.

The airport website shows some flights are delayed, while others are taking off on-time. Be sure to check with your airline before heading to the airport.

Train cars collide in Hialeah, cause minor derailment

No injuries reported

Author: Alexandra Fruin, Producer, AFruin@wplg.com
Published On: Aug 20 2014 07:46:10 AM EDT   Updated On: Aug 20 2014 10:00:00 AM EDT
HIALEAH, Fla. -

Private train cars separated from an Amtrak train rolled into the rest of the train, causing a minor derailment early Wednesday morning. 

According to an Amtrak spokesman, two private train cars were separated from the train Tuesday night. The train had arrived at the Miami station, but was moved to Hialeah to be cleaned. 

The private train cars hit the train around 3:15 a.m.

An Amtrak spokesman said an investigation is underway to determine if the cars were locked down.

Sky 10 flew over the scene at Northwest 37th Avenue and Northwest 82nd Street as workers appeared to check for possible damage. 

Rerailing equipment was being delivered to fix the issue. No one was hurt. 

Follow Local 10 on Twitter @WPLGLocal10

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