Thursday, April 3, 2008

Woo hoo; Now Cubans can legally have cell phones. Toasters are still, however, illegal

Yes. The US Trade Embargo is a sick anachronism. But so too is the regime.

From: Ninetymilesaway

Yes, boys and girls, your ordinary citizen can now ante up to the check-in at any hotel establishment on the island of Cuba, as long as he or she has the money to pay in hard currency. Ah, there's the rub.

A cursory search reveals at least one hotel in Varadero where a weekend stay costs about 120 dollars. Do a little simple math. Convert it to CUC's and then divide it by the average monthly salary of a average Cuban. Soon you realize that a weekend in Varadero would cost the equivalent of 5 and a half months complete take home pay. Now say you make 35 thousand a year, it would be like paying about 10 thousand dollars for your weekend.


If you look at the "reforms" that have made the latest splash in the media, they all have one thing in common. Cell phones, computers, appliances (except for the lowly toaster, they'll have to wait 'til 2010 for them), they are the appurtenances of modern life, the must haves of the global consumer society. Your average American hears, "Cubans will be allowed to buy microwaves," and immediately pictures them in addition to the Kraftmaid kitchen with the Kitchen Aid appliances, not as a replacement for the lone hot plate with the grease of twenty years and the fraying cord, the cost of which must be paid out for years. So to the uninformed, the impression made is that Cuba is joining the 21st century.

Now Cubans may be isolated, but they have a sense of how the other half lives. All they have to do is look at the tourists, the party apparatchiks, and the State stores, or look to their exiled kin. And in part, they realize how little likelihood there is that they will be able to afford these luxuries the rest of the world takes for granted. As usual with the regime, appearance is all.

Still among the banned, however, are the rights of free assembly, free speech, free elections. Call me a skeptic, but I'm looking for one tell, and that is the release of the political prisoners. The day that Dr. Oscar Biscet walks out of whatever hell hole they've transferred him to a free man; then I will believe change is truly on the way. Until then, I fear I have misjudged Raul, who may very well have been the brains behind keeping the throne all these many years.

And as Canadians are always wont to tell you: they have great literacy and more doctors per square mile or some such tripe. Well, they do have great literacy, but there's little to read. And Fidel (who now wears a shell suit) sold off many of his doctors to Chavez for US$27 a barrel Venezuelan oil. There is also the little medical issue plaguing the Cuban medical system: antiquated equipment and an acute shortage of drugs. Oh yeah, that's America's fault....

Addendum: Spoke with a Cuban Graduate Student (in Divinity no less) at Trinity College about the toasters. His comments were. Practically everyone he knows in Cuba already has a cell phone, albeit registered in a foreigner's name, and that Cuba is not ready for toasters as there is not enough electricity on the Island to support them. However, unlike the Dominincan Republic, they have no longer have the nightly blackouts that those toaster wielding Dominicans do.

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