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Communist Cuba opens luxury shopping mall in Havana

The five-storey Manzana de Gomez centre is an example of Cuba's opening up to the West - and illustrates its need for tourist revenue.

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Communist Cuba opens luxury shopping mall in Havana

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The expensive Western consumer goods on display do not provide an image normally associated with Cuba. However they are on sale in the heart of old Havana: the communist island has opened its first luxury shopping mall since the 1959 revolution.

One pair of fashion trainers had a price tag of $268 US; to buy them would mean two and a half years of saving for an ordinary Cuban – assuming they spend nothing on anything else.

There are watches on sale for $5,000, pens at $3,000 and facial cream at $40 a jar.

Such products are in another galaxy for people who sometimes earn only $12.50 a month.

But some local residents in Havana welcome the glitzy new complex in their neighbourhood.

“They are top-of-the-range products and the prices are high – but it’s nice,” said state employee Claudia Veker.

“I didn’t buy anything; the prices are too high but even so, it’s still worth it, it’s welcome,” said Helena Rodriguez, who is self-employed.

A few streets from the mall working-class Cubans live in dilapidated apartments; the shops they visit have often had shortages of basic goods.

But the country needs tourists – numbers are up and it’s hoping for four million visitors this year, an increase of 15 percent on 2016.

Some may be attracted by places like this. Others say they’re repulsed; in the words of one American, “I came here to get away from this”.