Cuba's Version Of Craigslist
GUY RAZ, host:
A wink, a nod and an envelope stuffed with cash isn't required behavior in New Jersey. But a bit of cheating here and there is practically a survival skill in Cuba.
A mysterious Internet entrepreneur has set up that country's version of Craigslist or, shall I say, list a del Craig. Well, actually it's called revolico.com, and it's an online black market where you can find offers for everything, from how to get off the island, to sex, to spare parts for a '48 Oldsmobile.
Reporter Nick Miroff has written about the site for GlobalPost. And he joins me from Central Cuba.
Mr. NICK MIROFF (Reporter): Thanks. Good to be here.
RAZ: Nick, is Cuba's black market moving from the street to the Internet?
Mr. MIROFF: It is, at least, through this one site. The site's gotten over a hundred thousand new listings in the past two months and, you know, at least in Havana it is becoming something of a commercial and cultural phenomenon.
RAZ: So, what are sort of the popular things that people are trying to sell?
Mr. MIROFF: Well, the most popular are computer parts, computer equipment, laptops, flash memory, things like that that are difficult to get in government-run stores and way over priced. So those items tend to enter in traveler's suitcases and then end up being, sort of, resold in the informal economy or black market.
RAZ: You write about how one person even posted an offer to help anybody get off the island. How can they do that and not be worried about being, you know, arrested?
Mr. MIROFF: It's a good question, and, you know, from the people that I've talked to there is a real skittishness among people who put these postings up that undercover police will infiltrate the site and try to figure out who is behind some of these ads.
You know, in the case of the ad offering, you know, to get someone off the island, it was apparently from someone in the States, a Cuban American saying that she'd be down here this summer and that she was willing to enter into a fraudulent marriage, and she wanted half the money upfront and half the money at the end of the deal.
RAZ: You also write about this vibrant trade in car parts.
Mr. MIROFF: That's right. The car listings feature mostly vehicles that were made before 1960. Now, that's because the Cuban government only allows vehicles manufactured before 1960 to be freely bought and sold. There was an ad recently from someone who said that they had a '48 Oldsmobile but they were looking to trade it for a smaller model.
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RAZ: Nick, how easy is it for Cubans to get online? I mean, can they do it from home? Can they get online whenever they want to?
Mr. MIROFF: It's very difficult, and Cubans who do have Internet access for the most part get it through their work. However, there's a big black market for Internet accounts. And so, for example, a Cuban who has access through work may try to sell their password and access to someone who could then log on in the evenings.
RAZ: How does this site operate without getting shutdown? Presumably, Cuban authorities are monitoring it, so how can it still be up and running?
Mr. MIROFF: You know, it's not clear. The site doesn't appear to be hosted in Cuba. The servers look to be somewhere else off the island because the domain extension is not a CU domain extension but a dot com extension, and so far it hasn't been blocked. But I can say that a lot of Cubans who I have talked to say they expect it's only a matter of time.
RAZ: Nick Miroff is a reporter who covers Cuba. His latest article on revolico.com can be found at the Web site globalpost.com.
Nick, thanks for joining us.
Mr. MIROFF: Thanks, Guy. Good to talk to you.
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