I wanted to pass along a little story for all you that are planning on traveling to Havana in the future.
This past Saturday, my friend and I were returning from a few days of cigars and rum in Havana and we were leaving via Terminal 2 at Jose Marti Airport. Our flight was early in the morning and we actually arrived before sunrise. Terminal 2, in my past experience has always been rather busy for its size, but this morning, there were only two flights going out and so it wasn't too crowded.
Everything was a breeze as we passed through customs and entered the security checkpoint. My friend passed though before me as I was selected randomly by Southwest Airlines for a more detailed security check. Once my bag went through the x-ray, a boy who was working security (couldn't have been more than 18 yrs old) had my bag full of cigars and I reached for my facturas. He said, "I'm sorry sir, but it is not possible to take your cigars out of Cuba." I handed him my facturas and he didn't even look at them. He just repeated that it was not possible. I asked him "Why is it not possible?" He just shook his head and replied "It is not possible but I can help you, if you help me." I gave him a confused look and he said, "In the bathroom..." I then had to proceed to my random security check at the desk nearby which was a piece of cake. I looked up and saw the boy with another older security officer and he made eye contact with me and headed to the bathroom. I followed him in there and had to pay him in order to take my cigars with me on my flight. Remember, I had all facturas and receipts, which he did not even look at. I had some USD hidden in my wallet, but also had some CUC that I was planning on using for rum in the duty free shop as a gift for family back home. He calmly took all my CUC and that was the end of it. He also had the audcity to shake my hand. Once we left the bathroom, he met up with the other security officer and they laughed together.
When I met up with my friend, I learned that the same thing happened to him as well. We didn't loose that much money, but we definitely felt violated. We watched him do the same thing to a man on the second flight that was going out that morning and witnessed laughter with other security officers after the bathroom exchange. Now if my spanish was better I guess this could have been resolved differently, but at the time I could tell there were multiple people in on the scam and I didn't want to cause any trouble that could make me miss my flight or worse. This wasn't my first time in Havana or going through this particular terminal, but I assume it would not have happened if the airport was more populated as it has been in my past experiences.
Just wanted to pass this story along to anyone of you going through Terminal 2. Might save you from the same situation if you are prepared beforehand. Cheers, guys.