Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cuba Lifts Ban on Computer and DVD Player Sales

Has Raul Castro opened the Cuban version of Pandora's Box? It could be. Though the government claims it will remain in control of the Cuban Internet, it's nothing for Cubans to link with each other via dial-up connections. A breeze.

Which is more valuable to Cubans? A Cuban Internet, or Intra-net? Or air conditioners and toasters. Maybe this small sign of liberalization is all that's needed to alert other nations that investing in Cuba might pay off. If the dountry were not the economic mess that it is, some risk capital might find its way to the island. Perhaps to build a power generation facility. It will take a lot of power to run the air conditioners for 12 million Cubans during those hot summers. Toasters? More electricity. Lights? More electricity.

It's possible that sales of computers and DVD players are the start of big changes for Cuba.

HAVANA (Reuters) - Communist Cuba has authorized the unrestricted sale of computers and DVD and video players in the first sign that its new president, Raul Castro, is moving to improve Cubans' access to consumer goods.

An internal government memo seen by Reuters on Thursday said the appliances long desired by Cubans can go on sale immediately, although air conditioners will not be available until next year and toasters until 2010 due to limited power supplies.

Only foreigners and companies can buy computers in Cuba at present, while DVD players were seized at the airport until last year, when customs rules were eased.

Now Cubans will be able to buy them freely, paying for them in hard currency CUCs, or convertible pesos, worth 24 times more than the Cuban pesos state wages are paid in.
"Based on the improved availability of electricity, the government at the highest level has approved the sale of some equipment which was prohibited," the memo said.

It also listed television sets, which were already on sale, electric pressure cookers and rice cookers, electric bicycles, car alarms and microwave ovens.

Raul Castro, 76, has led Cuba since July 2006 when his older brother Fidel Castro provisionally handed over power after intestinal surgery from which he has not fully recovered.

The younger Castro was formally named president on February 24, becoming Cuba's first new leader in almost half a century, and he promised to ease some of the restrictions on daily life.
"The country's priority will be to meet the basic needs of the population, both material and spiritual," he said as he replaced Fidel Castro, a staunch critic of capitalist consumer society.
Last year, under Raul Castro's provisional government, customs regulations were eased to allow Cubans to bring in some electronic equipment and car parts.


The new memo circulated within the state-run retail system said Cubans will have access to a second group of products in 2009, including air conditioners, which are much in demand to help endure the hot summer days in the tropical country.

If Cuba's electricity supplies permit, additional appliances to be sold freely in 2010 include toasters and electric ovens, the memo said.

Cubans were delighted with the prospect of being able to buy items such as microwave ovens and air conditioners that were previously only available as stolen goods on the black market.
Shop attendants in central Havana had not heard about the measure but said there was great demand for the items.

"That's great. I hope this is the necessary start along a new path," said second-hand clothes vendor Maritza Hernandez, eager to see further reforms to Cuba's command economy.
The sale of many electric appliances was banned in the 1990s when the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived Cuba of billions of dollars in subsidies and oil supplies, resulting in an energy crunch and daily blackouts of as long as 18 hours.

Cuba put an end to power cuts in 2006 by importing hundreds of electricity generators run on fuel supplied by Venezuela, its main foreign ally.

Raul Castro has encouraged debate of Cuba's economic woes and has received a torrent of complaints focusing mainly on poor wages and limited access to consumer goods that are priced in hard currency.

In December, he said Cuba had too many restrictions and last month, formally assuming leadership, he vowed "in the next few weeks we shall start removing the most simple of them."
Many Cubans expect the state to soon allow them to buy cellular telephones. While they will now be able to buy computers, access to the Internet remains controlled by the government.


Blogger Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

Raul is moving cub in the 21st century, well hope he doesnt damage the health system or literacy rtes

9:55 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

torrance, the universal healthcare system in Cuba is mostly a myth. It's true its' free. But you get what you pay for; patients don't get much because there isn't much to give.

Meanwhile, though everyone can read and write, they don't get to make much use of the knowledge they are allowed to acquire. Unfortunately, Cuba is a nation running short of everything. Instead of being the most prosperous nation in Latin America it exists at the edge of financial collapse.

But Raul can change all that if he faces reality and grants people the right to private property.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:10 AM  

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