where cemetery vault is sold on Internet
Havana, Aug 26 (IANS) Defying restrictions
on commerce between individuals and limits
on access to the Internet, Cubans have created
an unusual virtual marketplace on the Web
where users can find everything from speedboats
and GPS systems for reaching US shores to
Just a few years ago, classified ad Web
sites included few offers from Cuba, and
most of those were rooms for rent at people's
homes, according to the Spanish news agency
But now, despite the restrictions on Internet
use - according to unofficial estimates
fewer than one million of Cuban's 11 million
people have e-mail accounts - Cubans are
getting up to speed with the information
In contrast with the limited supply of
goods available at stores on the island,
anything, or just about anything, can be
bought and sold on the Internet in the 'strong
currency' - meaning the Cuban convertible
peso, or CUC, which is worth $1.08, compared
with four cents for the ordinary peso.
On the Cuba page of the site 'clasificados.st'
visitors can purchase a lifeboat, a speedboat
with a fibreglass hull and a 60-horsepower
motor or a set of sails for some $325.
A GPS for the speedboat can be acquired
on the Web for some $550 'in perfect condition,
with navigation manual for those who want
to go out for some serious fishing', the
Also available on the Web are ads about
Internet access, such as the sale of an
e-mail account with international access
and 24-hour availability for 15 CUCs (about
This is a very attractive offer in a country
where the purchase of e-mail addresses and
passwords is one of the means used by ordinary
citizens to access the Internet, normally
a service reserved for authorized intellectuals,
doctors, government officials and professionals
on the communist-ruled island.
Still, beyond these novelties, most of
the advertisements are in reference to automobiles
for sale or housing exchanges.
Cubans can find on the Web such items as
a 1956 Chevrolet for $12,500, a 1953 Mercedes
for $12,000 or a Fiat-125 for $5,000.
Ladas, the popular Soviet made-autos whose
use spread throughout Cuba in the 1980s,
deserve special mention.
Available on line are such parts as a Lada
hood for $60, an air conditioner for a Daewoo
Tico that has been adapted for the Soviet
model and automatic windows, while for some
$8,000 a 1974 Dodge taxicab with a Lada
engine and Nissan seats can be purchased.
Housing ads also have their peculiarities,
although one must be careful when negotiating
and be aware of the complex Cuban legislation,
which only recognizes property exchanges.
It is also advisable to understand the
symbols of the Web shorthand, including
the use of the number 4 to indicate rooms.
As an example, prospective buyers can find
something like the following: 'I'd like
to exchange a 2/4 house in Marianao and
a 1/4 in Playa for a 3/4 in Playa; I welcome
There are also more concrete propositions:
'I'll buy your flat roof to build my little
house, only in Vedado. This is totally legal.
Let's go for it!'
Of course, proposals can also be found
from the ill informed, such as one from
a Spaniard interested in buying an apartment
in Havana with a view of the Malecon (Seawall).
The man, who said he would be visiting Cuba
in September, perhaps is unaware that foreigners
- with rare exceptions - cannot legally
own property in Cuba.
But perhaps the most bizarre offer to be
found in this virtual marketplace is one
for the sale of a vault at Havana's Colon
It is described as 'very fine,' of white
marble from 1924, in perfect condition,
in the shade and centrally located. 'A family
investment for many generations. Price negotiable.'