lunes, 31 de marzo de 2008

Cuban power shift could help Louisiana

Cuban power shift could help Louisiana
March 31st, 2008 by Natalie Messina
Source: Daily Reveille

With Fidel Castro no longer in office, all eyes are on Cuba, with some
speculating the power shift could reopen a lucrative window in Louisiana.

Cuba was the Port of New Orleans' biggest trading partner before Castro
became president in 1959. Though a handful of products still flow
between the countries, trade remains limited because of a U.S. trade
embargo in place since the 1960s.

Louisiana exported $30 billion in goods this past year according to the
World Trade Center of New Orleans. About $173 million of those exports
went to Cuba, ranking the island No. 45 among more than 200 countries
with which Louisiana did business in 2007.

But this hasn't stopped New Orleans from realizing the potential to
renew profitable ties with the island. Some are optimistic that Fidel's
decision to step down could trigger a change in U.S.-Cuban trade policy
and create more jobs in the Louisiana trading industries located along
the Mississippi River.

"I am hopeful for the first time in many years," said George Fowler,
general counsel and vice president of the Cuban American National
Foundation, the largest Cuban exile group in the world.

Cuba Boosts Domestic Investment To $250 Million

Cuba Boosts Domestic Investment To $250 Million - AFP

HAVANA (AFP)--Cuba this year will boost national investment to six
billion pesos ($250 million) - four times what it spent 10 years ago,
Vice President Carlos Lage said Sunday.

"We've put into effect a much bigger investment process than previous
years and of greater importance to the economy and people's lives," Lage
told the Juventud Rebelde newspaper without indicating which sectors
would most benefit from the increase.

Lage, 56, is credited with lifting Cuba from economic crisis after the
Soviet Union fell in 1991. He retained his post as one of the country's
most influential vice presidents when Fidel Castro, 81, was replaced by
his brother Raul, 76, last month.

He told the daily that the government in 2008 "will invest more than
CUP6 billion, four times what it invested between 1995 and 1998, which
was CUP1.5 billion per year."

Thanks to the increase, he said, "we'll be able to cut time and cost (of
development projects), and do everything we've been doing with much
less; which means doing more things, expanding programs with social

Without clarifying, he said Cuba had a lot of potential waiting to be

Lage earlier this month announced an economic program aimed at
revitalizing " strategic" sectors of the economy, including construction
and food, following Raul Castro's principles of "hard work, which not
only means working more but also better."$250%20Million%20-%20AFP

US National Telecom Begins Interop Testing of Voice Traffic Route to Cuba

US National Telecom Begins Interop Testing of Voice Traffic Route to Cuba

By Anuradha Shukla
TMCnet Contributing Editor

US National Telecom, through its wholesale subsidiary, has begun interop
testing of a voice traffic route to Cuba.

Because there is a trade embargo with Cuba, the subsidiary will legally
operate like all other USA telcos and send traffic to licensed non-USA
telecom carriers. In turn, these carriers will have direct connections
to Cuba.

According to the company, the demand for voice traffic capacity to Cuba
is at an all-time high. The demand is especially high from prepaid phone
card companies in Florida and New York. USNT anticipates millions of
minutes of voice traffic for these new routes, with the potential to
bring in upwards of $550,000 in additional annual revenue.

Both the execution and cost projections have indicated that this venture
will be profitable. USNT said in a press release that this project is
currently pending corporate counsel's review of current trade laws
regarding the embargo in place with Cuba.

In view of their experience in other Latin American countries, USNT
President G. Giagnocavo is confident that the ability to handle voice
traffic to Cuba will give them a decided advantage over many other
telecom companies.

USNT is a growing family of New Generation tech companies using VoIP.
Earlier this month the company, through its wholesale subsidiary,
received many offers for its voice traffic routes to El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras. A major UK telco inked a deal for voice traffic
estimated to generate $160,000 per month for a minimum of twelve months.

Desde el 14 de abril podrán comprar móviles los particulares cubanos

Desde el 14 de abril podrán comprar móviles los particulares cubanos
Hora: 15:25 Fuente : EFE

La Habana, 31 mar (EFECOM).- Los cubanos podrán comprar teléfonos
móviles desde el lunes 14 de abril en 30 locales de la empresa estatal
de telecomunicaciones, informó el viceministro de Informática y
Comunicaciones, Ramón Linares, en entrevista que publica hoy el diario
oficial Granma.

El servicio se cobrará en pesos convertibles en divisas (CUC), con un
costo de activación de línea de 111 (120 dólares estadounidenses) y las
tarifas serán las mismas que se aplican actualmente a empresas y
extranjeros, los únicos que podían comprar celulares hasta ahora.

A los 30 puntos de venta iniciales de la Empresa de Telecomunicaciones
de Cuba (Etecsa), donde los usuarios también podrán comprar los equipos
y cuyas direcciones "se informarán oportunamente", se sumarán otros
veinte establecimientos en "una segunda etapa", dijo Linares sin
precisar fechas.

El viceministro explicó que los particulares cubanos que tengan ya
móviles adquiridos "por vía indirecta" -ilegalmente, por medio de
terceros- podrán hacer el "cambio de titularidad" de manera personal,
con un contacto telefónico con Etecsa.

La liberalización de la telefonía móvil celular es una de las reformas
limitadas que está aplicando en su segundo mes de mandato el nuevo
presidente cubano, Raúl Castro, y la única de la que han dado cuenta
hasta ahora los medios de comunicación de la isla, todos estatales.

Las otras son el fin de la restricción para que los cubanos se alojen en
hoteles para turistas, vigente desde hoy en varios establecimientos de
la Habana, según informaron a Efe fuentes del sector, y la venta a
particulares de computadoras, televisores, ollas arroceras y otros
artículos eléctricos, que comenzará mañana.

Todos los servicios y productos liberalizados se ofrecerán en CUC, cada
uno equivalente a 24 pesos cubanos (CUP o MN: moneda nacional).

El salario mensual promedio en la isla es de 408 pesos cubanos (17 CUC),
por lo que dar de alta un celular equivaldrá a los sueldos de seis meses
y medio.

Según el viceministro, en un futuro "también será posible ofrecer, de
manera gradual y limitada, servicios celulares en CUP o MN, a medida que
los flujos financieros de este proyecto lo permitan sin poner en peligro
la sostenibilidad del mismo".

Tiene cobertura de telefonía celular el 65% del territorio la isla,
donde reside el 75% de los once millones de habitantes, afirmó Linares.

"Esta semana el ministerio de Informática y Comunicaciones emitirá a
Etecsa las regulaciones necesarias para el funcionamiento normal de este
servicio", agregó.

El funcionario comentó que en 1959, cuando triunfó la revolución
encabezada por Fidel Castro, en Cuba había solo 170.000 líneas
telefónicas fijas, el 73% de ellas concentradas en La Habana.

"La densidad telefónica era (en 1959) de 2,6 equipos por cada cien
habitantes, proporción que hoy hemos quintuplicado, y aún resulta baja",
agregó Linares. EFECOM


Another ban lifted: Cubans can now stay in tourist hotels, rent cars

Another ban lifted: Cubans can now stay in tourist hotels, rent cars
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:18 AM EDT, March 31, 2008
Havana, Cuba

In a small but symbolically important move, Raul Castro's government
early Monday quietly lifted its controversial ban keeping Cubans from
staying at tourist hotels.

"We've had no Cuban guests so far but the hotel is overbooked right
now," said Sandra, a young woman working the front desk at the Hotel
Nacional shortly after midnight. She said a tourism ministry official
informed hotel management of the change late Sunday.

The decision was the latest in a spate of modest moves that indicate
that Castro, 76, is setting out to reshape daily life on the communist
island. Workers at all-night rental car offices in the capital said the
ban on Cubans renting autos also ended at midnight.

Granma, the Community Party daily newspaper, made no mention of the
change on its website early Monday, but several hotel and rental-car
employees said they were informed of the move late Sunday.

Since officially succeeding his ailing brother Fidel on Feb. 24, the
younger Castro has legalized products and services that Cubans had been
forced to acquire on the black market. Besides lifting restrictions on
cell phone ownership last week, Castro also ended a ban on the purchase
of certain consumer electronics such as computers and DVD players.

The changes may be setting the stage for a revaluation of the Cuban peso
and possible elimination of the dual-currency system that has
impoverished millions of Cubans. State salaries are paid in the nearly
worthless peso, while many products and services are purchased in
convertible pesos. Twenty-four Cuban pesos equal one convertible peso,
known as a CUC.

Those who live solely on government salaries, which average about $20 a
month, struggle to survive, even with free health care and education and
subsidized rations of food.

At the Nacional, for instance, a double room was priced at $184 a night,
a single room $130 per night. A suite was $232.

"I'm very happy," said Sandra, of the policy change. She asked her last
name not be used because she was unauthorized to speak with the media.
"We're all very happy at the hotel. I stayed here before the
restrictions went into place in the early 1990s. We're celebrating."

At the Tryp Peninsula in the Varadero beach resort early Monday, a front
desk employee named Alina, who also asked her name because she was not
authorized to speak with the media, confirmed the change but said she
didn't expect many Cuban guests. A double room cost $351 a night, a
single $221.

"I hope this helps tourism," she said. "We don't know if many Cubans
will stay here... The hotel is a little pricey for me. This is a new
five-star, all-inclusive hotel but there are cheaper hotels in Cuba."

At the Mercure Coralia Cuatro Palmas hotel in Varadero, a worker , who
declined to give his name for fear of reprisal, welcomed the change.
"Cubans should have the same rights as everyone else," he said.

more in /news/local/cuba,0,585457.column

Difuso aún el alcance real de las reformas en la isla

Publicado el lunes 31 de marzo del 2008

Difuso aún el alcance real de las reformas en la isla


El presidente cubano, Raúl Castro, levantó en su quinta semana de
mandato las prohibiciones de vender computadoras, celulares y otros
productos, pero aún está por verse el alcance final y los resultados de
la reforma prometida, que en todo caso será económica y no política.

Desde el martes, según la primera medida concretada, los cubanos podrán
comprar --si tienen el dinero necesario-- computadoras, lectores de
video, televisores, ollas arroceras y de presión eléctricas, bicicletas
eléctricas y alarmas para autos.

La resolución 43/08 del Ministerio de Comercio Interior aprobó el 21 de
marzo ''reanudar la venta minorista en la red de tiendas del mercado
interno en divisas con destino a personas naturales'' de esos productos
que ahora sólo se venden a empresas y extranjeros.

La medida no ha sido divulgada por la prensa de la isla, toda oficial,
pero EFE comprobó que numerosos cubanos la conocen.

Se trata de una modificación de la resolución 222 del 2003, que prohibía
la venta minorista de esos productos, confirmaron a EFE fuentes del
Ministerio de Comercio Interior.

En semanas anteriores hubo numerosas versiones sobre la venta de
electrodomésticos y otras reformas, dado que Raúl Castro, desde que era
presidente interino en el 2006, había prometido acabar con el exceso de
prohibiciones, siendo ésta la primera acción concretada oficialmente.

En todo caso, afectará sólo a una minoría con ingresos en divisas, pues
la computadora más barata equivale al salario de varios años de un
profesional (el salario promedio es de 408 pesos cubanos al mes,
equivalentes a $17).

En la segunda medida de impacto, la Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de
Cuba (ETECSA) anunció el viernes pasado la venta libre de teléfonos
celulares o móviles, que hasta ahora sólo podían comprar empresas,
funcionarios y extranjeros.

ETECSA explicó --ahora sí con noticias en la prensa--, que ofrecerá a
particulares ''el servicio de telefonía celular'' mediante ''contrato
personal en la modalidad de prepago'', pero no precisó desde cuándo.

Según el diario Granma, el gobierno emitirá regulaciones que asegurarán
la puesta en marcha y el control del servicio ``de manera ordenada y

Raúl Castro y otros dirigentes del Partido Comunista, único permitido,
advirtieron que las reformas serán paulatinas, sin improvisar, dentro
del socialismo y sin traicionar la revolución.

Algunos diplomáticos y analistas hablan de una ''apertura'' al estilo de
China y Vietnam, donde los gobiernos comunistas liberalizaron la
economía sin ceder el control político, pero es temprano para saber si
Cuba avanza en ese camino.

El gobierno cubano examina también ''la progresiva, gradual y prudente
revaluación del peso'', declaró Raúl Castro, de 76 años, al reemplazar
el pasado 24 de febrero a su hermano Fidel, de 81, arropado por la vieja
guardia revolucionaria.

También se esperan reformas para facilitar la comunicación de los
emigrados con sus familias, liberalizaciones en el área agropecuaria y
el fin de las restricciones que tienen los cubanos para acceder a
internet y a los hoteles en la isla.

Cuba realizará inversiones por más de 250 millones de dólares

Cuba realizará inversiones por más de 250 millones de dólares

Cuba realizará este año inversiones por más de 6.000 millones de pesos
(más de 250 millones de dólares), lo que equivale a cuatro veces más que
las que realizaba hace una década, afirmó este domingo el vicepresidente
cubano, Carlos Lage.

"Está en marcha un proceso inversionista mucho más amplio que en años
anteriores, de mucha importancia para la economía y para la vida de la
población", señaló Lage, de 56 años y miembro del selecto Buró Político
del Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC, único), citado por el diario
Juventud Rebelde.

Lage, artífice de la reforma económica de los 90 para enfrentar la
crisis en que cayó Cuba tras la desintegración de la Unión Soviética en
1991, destacó que el país "hará este año inversiones por más de 6.000
millones de pesos, más de cuatro veces lo ejecutado entre 1995 y 1998,
que era de 1.500 millones de pesos al año".

El vicepresidente cubano subrayó que "es de mucha importancia en la
organización de ese proceso la eficiencia y los tiempos en que se
ejecutan las obras", y no precisó las áreas en que se realizarán las

"Podemos bajar los costos y los tiempos, y podemos hacer todo esto que
estamos haciendo con mucho menos, que significa hacer más cosas, ampliar
los planes de beneficio social", añadió, tras señalar que en Cuba "hay
ejemplos de mucha reserva de productividad y de producción" por explotar.

Lage anunció a comienzos de este mes una reanimación de sectores
"estratégicos" de la economía cubana, como la industria de materiales de
la construcción y la alimenticia, y sostuvo que esa mejoría "debía ir
acompañada de preceptos como el esbozado" por el presidente cubano Raúl
Castro "de trabajar duro, que no solo significa trabajar más sino
también trabajar mejor".AFP

Los cubanos pueden volver a hospedarse en hoteles, pero en divisas

Los cubanos pueden volver a hospedarse en hoteles, pero en divisas

Deberán pagar las mismas tarifas que los extranjeros.


lunes 31 de marzo de 2008 12:48:00

El gobierno autorizó el hospedaje de los cubanos en los hoteles de la
Isla, reservados al turismo extranjero desde hace más de una década,
confirmaron este lunes empleados del sector, citados por la AFP.

"Sí, recibimos esa orientación y ya está vigente", dijo telefónicamente
a la AFP un empleado de carpeta del hotel Copacabana, en La Habana, al
igual que una trabajadora del hotel Riviera, quien agregó que "esa
orientación está vigente desde el domingo"·

También lo confirmaron los hoteles Nacional, Victoria, Presidente y

Los cubanos pagarán iguales tarifas que los extranjeros en divisas, a
pesar de que el salario medio en la Isla es del equivalente a entre 13 y
17 dólares al mes.

Desde que comenzó el desarrollo del turismo internacional en 1993, con
el objetivo de recaudar divisas para encarar la crisis económica, los
hoteles comenzaron a funcionar en divisas y sólo para extranjeros.

Se mantuvo el acceso en pesos cubanos para parejas recién casadas, y
como forma de "estímulo" a trabajadores y estudiantes destacados.

La medida fue antecedida por el acceso a la contratación de teléfonos
celulares, anunciada el viernes.

Ese servicio se cobrará igualmente en divisas, con el objetivo —según la
información oficial— de contribuir al desarrollo de la telefonía nacional.

El martes entrará en vigor una disposición del Ministerio de Comercio
Interior, que autoriza la venta en moneda dura de computadoras, DVD,
microondas y otros aparatos eléctricos, hasta ahora de distribución

domingo, 30 de marzo de 2008

Cuba wants more golf courses

Cuba wants more golf courses
Posted on Sun, Mar. 30, 2008

Forty-seven years after golf was virtually wiped off the island of Cuba,
the game may soon make a comeback, the St. Petersburg Times reports.

Cuban tourism officials are reportedly considering a major investment in
new golf courses across the island to boost its sagging tourism industry.

''The message coming from the Cubans is: bring us golf projects,'' Mark
Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to Cuba who represents one
investor group, told the Times.

A dozen golf projects around the island are on the drawing board, the
newspaper added, each consisting of hundreds of villas and apartments
built around the courses.

Cuba anuncia que aumentará colaboración médica de 73 a 81 países

Cuba anuncia que aumentará colaboración médica de 73 a 81 países
NUESTROS PAÍSES - 03/29/2008

La Habana/EFE —Cuba aumentará su colaboración médica de 73 a 81 países
durante 2008, e incrementará su presencia fundamentalmente en la región
del Pacífico, informaron hoy fuentes del sector a medios de comunicación

El director de la Unidad Central de Cooperación del Ministerio de Salud
Pública, Alberto González, afirmó que esa entidad "trabaja en la
preparación de los nuevos grupos de cooperantes que viajarán
próximamente a distintos países".

Las nuevas brigadas médicas llegarán a las Islas Salomón, Vanuatu,
Tubalu, Nauru y Papua y Nueva Guinea, en el Pacífico, y también al
Congo, Benin y Laos.

Actualmente Cuba tiene convenios de colaboración en salud con 73 países,
la mayoría de América Latina y Africa, y sus brigadas médicas suman
36.578 doctores y técnicos del sector.

La primera misión con médicos cubanos fue enviada a Argelia hace 45 años
y desde entonces unos 124.112 cooperantes han prestado servicios
internacionales, según datos oficiales.

La salud es una de las principales banderas de la revolución cubana y la
colaboración en el sector fue una de las tácticas del ex presidente
Fidel Castro para conseguir apoyo internacional, especialmente de
América Latina, frente a Estados Unidos, además de ser una fuente de
divisas en momentos de penuria económica.

La exportación de los servicios de médicos a la región se incrementó
notablemente en la última década, cuando Castro movilizó decenas de
miles de técnicos sanitarios, además de educadores y deportistas, para
trabajar en zonas marginales en Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala,
Haití y otros países.

Las brigadas cubanas generalmente se ubican en áreas pobres y
desatendidas por los servicios de salud nacionales, pero su llegada
causó polémica en algunos lugares, como Brasil y Bolivia, donde los
colegios médicos las acusaron de intrusismo y competencia desleal.

El programa ha tenido éxitos notorios en la llamada "Operación Milagro",
puesta en marcha en 2004 por Castro y el presidente de Venezuela, Hugo
Chávez, para atender a enfermos de la vista sin recursos, por la que se
ha operado a más de un millón de personas.

Otra iniciativa del Gobierno cubano fue la creación en La Habana de la
Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM), institución en la que
estudian más de 10.000 jóvenes de bajos recursos procedentes de 27
países, incluidos Estados Unidos y Timor Oriental.

sábado, 29 de marzo de 2008

Zafra tabacalera en Cuba no alcanza el plan de producción previsto

Zafra tabacalera en Cuba no alcanza el plan de producción previsto
Hora: 01:52 Fuente : EFE

La Habana, 28 mar (EFECOM).- La campaña tabacalera 2007-2008 en Cuba no
alcanzará el plan de producción previsto, con un 12% de incumplimiento a
punto de que finalice la zafra el próximo mayo, según indicaron hoy
funcionarios de ese sector a la prensa local.

El director agrícola de la empresa estatal TABACUBA, Raúl Alberto
Reloba, citado por la agencia estatal Prensa Latina, señaló que "hasta
el momento se encuentra más del 50% de todo el tabaco recolectado",
aunque apuntó que las hojas para habanos tipo Premium de exportación ya
están garantizadas.

La provincia occidental de Pinar del Río, la principal productora
cubana, concluyó su campaña con un cumplimiento del cien%, pero otras
zonas del país, como la región este, vieron afectada su cosecha por
"condiciones climáticas adversas".

Según Reloba, a finales de 2007 las lluvias que azotaron a las
provincias orientales causaron la pérdida del 70% de todos los semilleros.

El plan de siembra para la actual campaña de la solanácea fue de 30.024
hectáreas, pero solo se cultivaron 29.068 con un área cosechable de 27.249.

En medio de los contratiempos TABACUBA ha informado que la "producción y
calidad" de las hojas para habanos tipo Premium ya están disponibles
para su confección, lo que permitirá a la isla cumplir sus "compromisos"

Las autoridades cubanas anunciaron esta semana el aumento de un margen
de ganancia de hasta un 30% en el cultivo de la hoja, tras un proceso de
"actualización del costo de cada tipo de tabaco".

La producción tabacalera en la isla emplea cada año a unas 200.000
personas. EFECOM


Cuba como mercado potencial

Cuba como mercado potencial
Publicado el 27-3-2008

El inicio de abril pondrá punto final a una serie de políticas que
prohibían la venta de equipo de cómputo y distintos artículos
electrónicos a particulares en la Isla de Cuba.

La primera reforma que se concreta oficialmente desde que Raúl Castro
asumió el cargo de Presidente del país caribeño - la resolución 43/08
del Ministerio de Comercio Interior, fechada el viernes pasado, aprueba
"reanudar la venta minorista en la red de tiendas del mercado interno en
divisas con destino a personas naturales de computadoras".

De acuerdo con información de distintas agencias de noticias
internacionales, la disposición incluye, además, reproductores de video
de todo tipo, televisores de todas las medidas, ollas de presión
eléctricas y arroceras, bicicletas eléctricas y alarmas para autos.

La norma advierte que esos artículos se incorporarán a la venta "de
forma gradual", según se vayan adquiriendo por las entidades estatales
encargadas de su comercialización.

Las tiendas deben tener en cuenta que las marcas, modelos, piezas y
accesorios sean similares a los vendidos en el marco del programa de
ahorro energético que adelanta el gobierno desde 2005.

La norma modifica dos artículos de la resolución 222 de 2003, que
prohibía la venta minorista a la población de los productos ahora
autorizados, los cuales únicamente estaban al alcance de turistas y

Cuba's Post-Soviet Socialism

Cuba's Post-Soviet Socialism

Daily Article | Posted on 5/13/2002 by Antony Mueller

On January 1, 2002, the Cuban government celebrated the 43rd anniversary
of the revolution that put Fidel Castro in full control of the state.
With the dictatorship still in place and the economy under tight central
planning, not only has Castro's rule survived the breakdown of the
Soviet Union but the government has been able to establish new trade
relations and foreign direct investment agreements with several European
countries, Canada, and the transition countries in Eastern Europe and in

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is a declared friend of Fidel Castro, and Lula
of Brazil, who is currently heading the polls in that country's upcoming
presidential election, has frequently expressed his sympathies for the
Cuban model. Measured by the goal to remove Castro and to establish
democracy and a market economy, the U.S. policy toward Cuba must be
regarded as a total failure.

The U.S. embargo is ineffective and counterproductive. By pointing to
the "blockade," the Cuban people, whose affection for the American way
of life is still very much alive, can be taught by their government that
the embargo is proof that the United States must be regarded as their
enemy. In the 1960s, the endeavors of the U.S. government to isolate the
country threw Cuba right into the arms of the Soviets. Since the
breakdown of the Soviet Union, and with the maintenance of the embargo,
it is now the Cuban people who suffer most from the sanctions.

Misjudging Castro and the Cuban revolution has its roots in
misunderstanding the ideological foundation of revolutionary Cuba.
Although Fidel declared himself a communist early on, the ultimate
character of the Cuban revolution has always been as much
nationalistic-paternalistic as socialistic. Castro is a master at
playing the tune of anti-Americanism and anticapitalism together with
the promise of a better alternative beyond capitalism and Yankee dominance.

Understanding Castro's political survival requires understanding that he
was able to arouse strong feelings of national pride by standing up
against the perceived suppression and hegemony of the United States. By
rhetorical talent and charisma, and with massive help from the Soviet
Union, Castro created a unique system with a specific ideology. This
political ideology equalizes socialism with welfare and a socialist
welfare state with social justice. Anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism
is seen as equivalent to national independence, and national
independence is the foundation for national pride that puts the Cuban
people apart from the rest.

Putting these two equations of Castro's ideological algebra together,
the alternative appears as the threat that, should socialism disappear,
the Cuban people would lose their welfare state and, with it, social
justice. The widely held belief is that the end of socialism would mean
the loss of national independence, and that with the new dependence,
national pride and personal dignity would disappear as well. In Castro's
rhetoric, "socialism or death" is logically equivalent to "patria o muerte."

For more than 40 years, Fidel Castro has almost exclusively dominated
politics and the economy of the island. But Fidel Castro is neither the
exploitative nor the militaristic caudillo-type Latin American dictator.
In his own intention,[i] he probably follows more the paternalistic
traditions of his country. His view of socialism also has ingredients of
the pre-Columbian tribal "Taino-Socialism," and he also follows the
tradition of taking full advantage of Cuba's geostrategic position,
which dates back to the colonial period, when Havana became the place
where Mexican gold was spent before the rest was shipped to Spain. In a
historical perspective, living on foreign money under a paternalistic
leader who "justly" distributes the funds among his followers may be a
better shorthand description of Cuba's system than the connotations that
come with the concept of "socialism."

As the country's prime leader, Castro is also its top economic manager.
He acts as the final authority even in scientific affairs, and he is an
active adviser for his countrymen in all matters of life; his word
extends to judicial courts, the press and education. It is not the
Communist Party or any other group but Castro himself who is the glue
that holds the parts of the Cuban system together. He is the incarnation
of Max Weber's ideal type of a charismatic leader: able to negate all
aspects of reality outside of his own vision and capable of imposing his
view upon his followers.

Despite the global changes since the breakdown of the Soviet Union,
Cuba's leadership continues to bank on a centrally planned economy as a
viable way into the future and to maintain that it is not the
inefficiency of the socialist system but primarily the U.S.-American
blockade that is the prime culprit behind Cuba's economic problems.

Although admiration for Castro is in decline among the Cuban people,
particularly among the younger generation, there is the tendency to
accept the present rule out of fear about alternatives that could be
worse. The sympathies that associate a general level of welfare
equality, which the regime accomplished in the past, are still vivid,
and additional loyalty is brought about by the refined system of
privileges that typifies dictatorial and authoritarian regimes.

While Cuba has established new foreign-policy ties, the internal
economic reforms it has initiated since the breakdown of the Communist
trading bloc (Comecon) are based on the premise of keeping the
government in total control of the economy. Following the Lenin-Guevara
economic model, the government regards the economy as one large factory,
with the government as the prime management authority at its heart. All
profits are accrued by the central government, which acts as the
redistributive agency and delivers the goods to the population. Castro
follows this economic policy strategy of maintaining socialist planning
as the way to preserve his power. Flexibility is introduced into the
system in a pragmatic form and is allowed only as long as its
consequences remain under central control. The government also does all
it can to prevent that tourism or the presence of foreign companies
would have larger spillover effects to the rest of the economy.

Cuba's economic system represents as a three-dimensional structure, with
the centrally planned economy at the center, surrounded by a small
foreign sector and a semi-legal private economy. The system is
controlled from above, with the government as the unrestricted prime
decision maker and Fidel Castro as the final authority in all matters.
While the center of the economy, concentrated in sugar production, is a
permanent loss maker, the foreign sector's tourism industry and foreign
direct investment compensate somewhat for the internal inefficiencies.
The limited private sector works as an auxiliary stabilizer for the
provision of the most basic private needs. But as soon as it became
apparent that permission of free farmers' markets and small family-owned
businesses would revive the entrepreneurial spirit in the country, the
government began to impose severe sanctions and suffocating taxes on
these entities, practically wiping them out.

Castro wants to maintain these structural characteristics of the Cuban
economy despite the profound transformation of the international
environment and the obvious failures of socialist economic planning.
Maintaining a centrally planned economy is seen as the key to preserving
Cuban socialism, while tourism and foreign direct investment serve to
generate additional convertible currency, and the private economy is
allowed to alleviate somewhat the deficiencies of the centrally planned

The Cuban economy suffers from profound distortions, and inefficiencies
are paramount. Poverty is everywhere, extending to food, health, and
education. The withdrawal of Soviet subsidies has exposed the "Cuban
model" as a mere window dressing. Now the deception is crumbling like
the buildings in old Havana. Nevertheless, Cuba's leadership hangs on to
its vision, expecting some turn of fate.

"Socialism or Death": not accepting defeat has become the prime motto of
political propaganda in the past years. Like the population--which
throughout the country spends most of its time repairing all kinds of
obsolete things ranging from American cars (1950s models) to old Russian
trucks--the government is desperately trying to repair its obsolete
regime. At an increasing speed, the series of ad hoc interventionism is
making the internal contradictions more severe. While some of the
younger bureaucrats and party followers cling to the hope that Cuba is
"imitating the Chinese way," reality does not bear out this perspective;
in contrast to China, Cuba's policy of change is focused, not on
transition, but on preserving Castro's specific view of socialism and
his power.

After the end of Soviet subsidies, the government initiated a series of
reform measures, such as opening the economy to foreign investment,
establishing free-trade zones, fostering tourism, reorganizing
companies, and legalizing the possession of the U.S. dollar. These
efforts have helped to halt the downfall of the economy. But growth has
been anemic, and the two upsurges in the growth rates, which occurred in
1996 and, more recently, in 1999 and 2000 (see table below), do not
reflect balanced growth; instead, they are the result of sharp
variations in sugar production, of short-lived economic liberalization
measures, and, for 1999, of highly concentrated investment,
predominantly in the tourism sector.

In recent years, Cuba's economy profited somewhat from a rapid increase
in tourism, with 1.7 million visitors coming to the island, mainly from
Canada and Western Europe. In the second half of the 1990s, foreign
direct investment grew markedly, particularly in tourism,
telecommunications, and nickel and oil exploration. Additional sources
of foreign exchange come from private transfers from abroad,
predominantly from Cubans in the United States.

But these revenues could in no way compensate for the massive Soviet aid
that had subsidized the system. With the decline of tourism and foreign
direct investment already being felt, the Cuban economy is set for a new
downturn in the coming years.

Entering the 21st century, Cuba represents a highly imbalanced economy,
with the tourist sector as the most modern and most of the rest of the
economy in contraction and decline. Almost a decade into the período
especial, the standard of living for large parts of the population is
deteriorating rapidly, the productive system remains weak, and the
distribution of essential goods is highly defective and very uneven.
Shortages in the medical and school system have become more common.
Given that living standards may have fallen by about half compared to
the 1980s, a further deterioration of the economic situation could mean
a complete breakdown of the economy with an increased radicalization of
the political system.

Up to now, Cuba's system has been totally dependent on the person of
Fidel Castro. In contrast to the former Soviet Union, the Cuban regime
is a "one-man show" and represents neither "dictatorship of the
proletariat" nor the "rule of party." Fidel Castro Ruz is Comandante en
Jefe and Primer Secretario del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de
Cuba; he is Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros; and he
is, since January 1, 1959, the líder máximo of currently more than 11
million Cubans. No one has come close in terms of his charismatic
leadership. It seems fairly safe to presume that Cuba's current system
will come to an end once Fidel Castro disappears. The most likely
successor would be Fidel's brother, Raúl Castro, who heads the military
and the internal security apparatus. If he should inherit the role as
leader, he could maintain his rule only by more suppression.

Given the deteriorating state of the economy and the tendency to
increase political suppression, Cuba's future looks quite grim. This
outlook should alarm the United States in particular, because a bloody
internal conflict on the island would have ramifications beyond Cuba's
borders. Given the instability of the countries at the northern fringe
of the South American continent, turmoil in Cuba could serve as a
trigger for conflict in the whole region. The United States may be well
advised to initiate détente and more intensive trade relations with Cuba
and to get rid of the embargo now.

Dr. Antony Mueller is a professor of economics at the University of
Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and is currently a long-term visiting
professor under the German-Brazilian academic exchange program at the
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil. He has
visited Cuba frequently in the 1990s and most recently in January 2002.
Send him MAIL, and see his Articles Archive.

[1] See Fidel y la religión: Conversaciones con Frei Betto. By Fidel
Castro and Frei Betto (La Habana, Cuba, 1997); and La Historia Me
Absolvera. By Fidel Castro (La Habana, Cuba, 1993).

Cuba lifts mobile phone restrictions

Cuba lifts mobile phone restrictions
This article was first published on on Friday March 28
2008. It was last updated at 15:21 on March 28 2008.

The Cuban president, Raúl Castro, today lifted restrictions on ownership
of mobile phones.

Castro's move was another indication that he is prepared to grant more
freedom to the island's residents.

The right to own mobile phones had been restricted to the employees of
foreign firms or those holding key posts in the communist-run state.

Some Cubans had evaded the ban by asking foreigners to sign contracts in
their names, but mobile phones remain relatively uncommon in Cuba
compared with the rest of the world.

Castro - who formally assumed power from his brother, Fidel, in February
– promised in his inaugural speech to ease some of the restrictions on
daily life within weeks.

He pledged "structural changes" and "big decisions" in the near future.

An internal memo, leaked to Reuters earlier this month, suggested Castro
intended to lift restrictions on the ownership of electrical appliances
including DVD players and computers, although no mention was made of
mobile phones.

Last week, the Cuban government lifted its ban on farmers buying their
own supplies in an attempt to improve agricultural production.

All supplies had been previously been assigned by the central
government, but small-scale farmers on some parts of the island are now
permitted to buy such items as seeds, fertiliser and clothing equipment
from state stores.

Such changes have been viewed as evidence that Castro is prepared to
make concessions to residents, albeit in the context of a one-party state.

Days after Castro was sworn in as president, Cuba signed two
legally-binding human rights agreements, forming part of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, at the UN in New York.

He has also held talks with the Vatican's leading diplomat, Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, who is seen as a potential emissary between the US and

Tourism in Cuba 'business as usual' after departure of Fidel Castro

Tourism in Cuba 'business as usual' after departure of Fidel Castro

11 hours ago

Canadians continue to flock to Cuba, with seemingly little worry of any
political fallout after longtime president Fidel Castro's handover of
power to his brother Raul.

Castro took ill in July 2006 and delegated many of his duties to his
younger brother.

Tourism industry representatives report "business as usual" in the
Caribbean island's tourism sector, even following the February handover
of the presidency to Raul Castro.

"There is literally no impact at this point in terms of traffic," said
Pierre LePage, executive director of the Canadian Association of Tour
Operators. "The transition from Fidel to his brother has had more impact
in the U.S. in the media and in terms of political impact. But in terms
of Canadian clients, there is no difference."

The Cuban Tourist Board in Toronto reported a 29 per cent increase in
Canadian travellers this January and February compared to last year. The
board said 660,387 visitors came from Canada in 2007.

Tourism became a key part of Cuba's economy soon after the collapse of
the Soviet Union, Cuba's most important ally, in 1991.

Julie Parker of Kingston, Ont., expected another carefree vacation this
winter. Since 1990 she has vacationed in Cuba almost every year with her
husband and, on occasion, other family members. They head for a rural
part of the province of Cienfuegos to unwind at a small hotel. Parker
said they had no concerns about changes in the political hierarchy
affecting their stay.

"Perhaps we're naive, but I'm not expecting anything negative," Parker
said as she geared up for her March vacation. "The countryside is safe
so you can walk the beaches and the roads. We go mainly for the rest and
relaxation, although this year we will also participate in Cienfuegos'
Terry Fox run."

Cuba has welcomed more than two million visitors each year since 2004.
The number of travellers did slip in 2006, according to LePage, but that
didn't have anything to do with Fidel Castro's health. The Canadian
Association of Tour Operators advised Cuba that issues like poor service
and airport theft were problems. Lepage says that these issues have been
"very well addressed" by the Cuban government.

Elias Bestard, the Cuban Tourist Board's director in Toronto, points out
new additions to the travel sector in recent and coming months,
including the Varadero Jam Session jazz festival, a spa in Cayo Coco,
and several hotels in and outside Havana.

Hal Klepak, a Cuban military specialist at the Royal Military College in
Kingston, says concerns about instability are scarce because the chances
of disruption, much less violence, are slim.

"Raul is one of three options for Cubans," Klepak said. "They can riot
for change and possibly bring violence and civil war, which no one, not
even the dissidents, want; they can call for U.S. intervention and act
in ways that might precipitate that, but such actions would be rejected
by the vast majority. Or they can give Raul the benefit of the doubt and
the time to try to reform things. They do not really have other options
available to them. Not surprisingly then, in my view, they have
decisively opted for the third of these possibilities."

"While the U.S. could continue to try, or even increase, its subversion
of the government in Havana, that is unlikely unless (U.S. Republican
presidential candidate John) McCain were to win the elections, and even
then, given 50 years of failure, its chances of success are not great,"
Klepak added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has no special
warning for Canadian travellers to Cuba, advising on its website only
that visitors "exercise normal safety precautions."

Jeffrey Woznow, a travel manager with the CAA in Ottawa, said good
security is one reason that Canadians will keep travelling to Cuba.

"It's got great beaches and weather, it's safe and affordable," he said.

Woznow, who has not noted any extraordinary queries about travelling to
Cuba, says the country, in fact, is increasing its appeal by
diversifying and improving its lodgings and services.

Indeed, Parker has seen minor improvements at her Cienfuegos hotel in
recent years, including better staffing and some upgrades to the hotel

What might turn Parker off from Cuba would be a flood of American
tourists should economic restrictions against the Communist regime be
lifted. Currently, the U.S. government basically bans its residents from
travelling there.

"An influx of Americans might lead to more of the all-inclusive style
resorts like in Varadero Beach that are just like the resorts in any
other country," Parker said.

"If it means that Cuba has a better relationship with the U.S., then
that's good - but it may not be good for us."

Celeste Mackenzie is an Ottawa-based freelance writer.

Cuba lifts curbs on mobile phones

Cuba lifts curbs on mobile phones

Cubans are to be allowed unrestricted access to mobile phones for the
first time, in the latest reform announced under new President Raul Castro.

In a statement in official newspaper Granma, state telecom monopoly
ETECSA said it would offer mobile services to the public in the next few

Some Cubans already own mobile phones, but they have had to acquire them
via a third party, often foreigners.

Cuba's rate of cell phone usage remains among the lowest in Latin America.

Now Cubans will be able to subscribe to pre-paid mobile services under
their own names, instead of going through foreigners or in some cases
their work places.

However, the new service must be paid for in foreign currency, which
will restrict access to wealthier Cubans.


ETECSA says the revenues will be used to fund telecommunications
development in Cuba.

Two weeks ago, a ban on a wide range of consumer electrical appliances
was lifted, after Raul Castro said in his inaugural speech as president
that he would act to ease some of the restrictions on Cubans' daily lives.

Tight restrictions remain in place on internet access in homes and on
foreign travel.

Raul, 76, was selected as president in February, after the retirement of
his ailing older brother, Fidel.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/03/28 14:28:11 GMT

Q&A on Cuban cell phone service

Q&A on Cuban cell phone service
Posted on Fri, Mar. 28, 2008
Associated Press Writer

Cell phone service will soon be widely available to Cubans for the first
time. Some questions and answers:

Q. What kind of service will be provided?

A. Details will be announced in the coming days, but it is likely to be
the same service now available to foreigners and elite Cubans, which
supports long distance national and international calls, and text
messaging. It likely won't include e-mail and other smart-phone
services. Camera phones available to everyday Cubans also won't be able
to transmit images directly.

Q. So what's really new here?

A. Until now, only Cubans who work for foreign companies or have top
government positions have been able to get legal contracts to use cell
phones. A growing number of Cubans have managed to get around this by
using other people's contracts or phones left behind by visiting friends
or relatives from other countries, and the government hasn't stopped
them. Now Cuba says it will legalize cell phone use and make it much
more accessible.

Q. Why now?

A. Raul Castro said when he became president last month that he would
quickly lift some prohibitions to create new government income. Some
also believe that allowing Cubans to have modern gadgets such as cell
phones, personal computers and microwave ovens may dissuade them from
demanding deeper changes in the state-controlled economy.

Q. Who will provide the service?

A. Cuba's state-controlled telecommunications monopoly, a joint venture
between the government and Telecom Italia.

Q. How much will it cost?

A. Probably so much that most Cubans can't afford it. Foreigners and
companies currently pay $120 to activate service and 60 cents a minute
for local calls.

Q. What about international calls?

A. Cuba already allows international cell phone calls at a steep cost.
Daytime rates are $2.70 a minute to the United States, $2.45 to Mexico
and $5.45 to almost everywhere else. A 10-minute call to Miami runs $33,
more than the average government worker earns in a month.

Q: How will Cubans come up with that money?

A: Likely users include Cubans who get hard currency from relatives or
friends living abroad, or who earn much more than most workers, either
through legally licensed small businesses or black market enterprises.

Q. How good is the service?

A. A lot better than it was a few years ago, before Telecom Italia
invested heavily in Cuba's fiber optic cable network and upgraded to the
world's leading cell phone technology. Cuba's phone monopoly now
believes it can handle heavier traffic - and make money off of it.

Q. What kind of phones will be available?

A. The phone monopoly's cell division, Cubacel, already provides prepaid
service and sells mobile phones with cameras for as much as $250. It
also sells basic models of Nokia and Motorola phones, now considered
obsolete in many other countries, for about $90 each.

Q. What about smart phone capabilities?

A. There are no plans to sell smart phones such as Motion Ltd.'s
BlackBerry, Palm Inc.' Treo, or Apple's new iPhones. Cubacel currently
offers smart phone services, such as e-mail, to a very limited number of
firms with local cell contracts. That technology can now be used by
visitors with smart phones that were activated through service contracts
from telecommunications firms in other countries that have operating
agreements with Cubacel.

Q. How will having a cell phone help everyday Cubans?

A. Cubans likely will use cell phones the same way people in other
countries do, to stay in contact with their families and acquaintances
when out of their home or office, especially in a place where public
phones are scarce and often don't work. Cell phones will make it easier
to make and keep appointments, rather than having to return home simply
to change a meeting time. Cubans who already have cell phones often give
them to their teenagers for security when they go out in the evenings.

Turkey - Cuba 8th Term Jec Protocol Signed

Turkey - Cuba 8th Term Jec Protocol Signed
Published: 3/27/2008

ANKARA - Turkish State Minister & Deputy PM Cemil Cicek and Cuban
Minister of Foreign Investment & Economic Cooperation Marta Lomas
Morales signed Turkey-Cuba 8th Term Joint Economic Commission (JEC)
protocol on Wednesday.

Under the protocol, the second loan tranche --which was provided by
Turkish Eximbank to Cuba and worth of 15 million Euro-- was opened to
use of Cuba. The total worth of the loan is 25 million Euro.

Cicek said that the protocol envisages cooperation between Turkey and
Cuba to explore and product natural gas and oil in third countries. He
added that also the two countries will start to cooperate in renewable
energy, energy productivity, wind and sun energy, and biogas areas.

Cicek noted that they envision to send a Turkish contractor delegation
to Cuba within 2008.

On the other hand, Cuban minister Morales said that the protocol will
further develop the relations between Turkey and Cuba.

Sunwing investigating delay on trip to Cuba

Sunwing investigating delay on trip to Cuba


00:00 EDT Friday, March 28, 2008

Tour operator Sunwing Travel Group, which said yesterday that it kept
passengers aboard a plane for about seven hours in Toronto earlier this
month, has launched an investigation into the long delay. Sunwing chief
operating officer Stephen Hunter said he encourages any of the 187
passengers to lodge a complaint if they have one, and Sunwing will
assess each case individually. One passenger, Steve Michelis, said the
charter flight was slated to leave late afternoon on March 8 for
Varadero, Cuba, but didn't depart until the next morning. Mr. Michelis
and Mr. Hunter said they have reached a tentative settlement, which
mostly takes into account hotel problems in Cuba, affecting the Michelis
family. Sunwing, privately owned by Toronto's Hunter family, is
committed to customer service, Mr. Hunter said.

viernes, 28 de marzo de 2008

TPAO To Explore Natural Gas In Cuba

TPAO To Explore Natural Gas In Cuba
Published: 3/26/2008

ANKARA - Turkish Energy & Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler said
Tuesday Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) can cooperate with Cuba in
oil and natural gas exploration as it does in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and

"TPAO is eager to join natural gas and oil exploration tenders in
Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador," Guler told reporters after
meeting Marta Lomas Morales, the Cuban minister of foreign investments
and economic cooperation, in capital Ankara.

Guler said the corporation will also carry out researches in Cuba. "We
may cooperate with Cuba in oil and natural gas exploration," he told.

"Turkey will set up a technical team to deal with joint energy projects
with Cuba and it will visit Cuba in coming days," he also said.

On the other hand, Morales said Turkey has a developed energy system,
and two countries have agreed to carry out joint oil and natural gas
explorations and some other joint energy projects.


El gobierno autoriza el acceso a la telefonía celular

El gobierno autoriza el acceso a la telefonía celular


viernes 28 de marzo de 2008 12:23:00

AFP/ La Habana. El gobierno autorizó a todos los cubanos la contratación
de teléfonos celulares, aunque su pago será en divisas, en una medida
que, según se informó oficialmente este viernes, tiene como objetivo el
desarrollo de la "conectividad" y nuevos servicios.

Hasta el presente, la telefonía celular estaba reservada a extranjeros o
funcionarios locales de organismos oficiales, cuyas empresas sufragaban
los gastos.

Algunos cubanos también habían adquirido teléfonos móviles a nombre de
un extranjero amigo.

Una comunicación de la Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S. A.
(ETECSA), publicada este viernes en el diario oficialista Granma señala
que "a partir del proceso inversionista actual, ETECSA está en
condiciones de ofrecer a la población el servicio de telefonía celular".

El mismo "se formalizará mediante contrato personal en la modalidad de
prepago", precisó.

"En los próximos días se informará a la población los procedimientos
para los cambios de titularidad de los ciudadanos cubanos que hasta la
fecha lo han adquirido por vía indirecta y el inicio de los nuevos
contratos a las personas naturales cubanas interesadas", añadió la

Cuba anuncia que levanta la restricción a la telefonía móvil

Cuba anuncia que levanta la restricción a la telefonía móvil
Viernes 28 de Marzo, 2008 1:54 GMT147

LA HABANA (Reuters) - Cuba anunció el viernes que permitirá sin
restricciones el uso de la telefonía móvil para los ciudadanos del país,
en una de las medidas más recientes del nuevo presidente, Raúl Castro.

La utilización legal de teléfonos móviles estaba exclusivamente
reservada hasta ahora para los extranjeros y para los funcionarios

"Etecsa está en condiciones de ofrecer a la población el servicio de
telefonía celular que se ofrecerá mediante contrato personal en la
modalidad de prepago", dijo el viernes Granma, el diario del gobernante
Partido Comunista.*.

In Cuba, next restriction to be lifted: Cellphone service

In Cuba, next restriction to be lifted: Cellphone service
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:47 AM EDT, March 28, 2008
Havana, Cuba

Ordinary Cubans will be allowed to buy cell phone service for the first
time, Cuba's phone company announced Friday.

The announcement, which came in a six-paragraph company statement
published in the state press, was the latest in a string of modest
changes introduced since Raul Castro took formally took over the
presidency last month from ailing brother Fidel.

There were few details but the ETECSA statement said that within days it
would inform the public about changes in cell phone ownership and
service contracts.

Until now, Cubans were able to acquire cell phone service only through

The communist island introduced cell phone service in 1991.

Cell phone service would involve prepaid cards and be paid for in hard
currency, the statement said.

The statement did not specify when the change would be implemented but
said that credits and technology obtained from other countries would
improve phone service for all Cubans in the coming years.

Since Raul Castro temporarily took over the country after his older
brother's emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, Cubans have been
anticipating the lifting of many of the restrictions that circumscribe
their daily lives.

One change announced this week was that computers and other consumer
electronics would soon go on sale to the general public.

Many Cubans have expressed hopes that the near-worthless pesos they get
on their government paychecks will increase in value, that their
pensions and salaries will increase, and that they will be allowed to
travel abroad without government permission.

Many also talk about getting unlimited Internet access, although it is
too costly for most, and regaining access to hotels now restricted to

Until now, the communist government's campaign for egalitarianism
limited access to luxuries such as cell phones and private cars.

"I could use a cell phone," said Rodrigo Junco, 58, when informed about
the change in cell phone ownership. "Whether I can afford one is a
different story. But any change at this point is welcome."

The government provides free housing, education and health care as well
as ration cards that help cover the costs of basic food. While few
Cubans want to part with those benefits, many hope the new government
will bring about changes to allow for small quality-of-life improvements.

Nearly 80 percent of Cubans work for the government and the average
monthly state salary is about $20. Government economists estimate at
least 60 percent of Cubans have access to dollars, euros and other
foreign currency because of jobs in tourism, with foreign companies, or
through funds sent by relatives abroad.

more in /news/local/cuba,0,3832405.column

jueves, 27 de marzo de 2008

US National Telecom (USNT) Negotiates $550,000 Voice Traffic Capacity to Cuba

US National Telecom (USNT) Negotiates $550,000 Voice Traffic Capacity to

2008-03-27 09:13 ET - News Release

DENVER, CO -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 03/27/08

US National Telecom (PINKSHEETS: USNT), through its wholesale
subsidiary, has taken steps to benefit from the regime change in Cuba
and yesterday began interop testing of a voice traffic route to Cuba.
The demand for voice traffic capacity to Cuba is at an all-time high,
especially from prepaid phone card companies in Florida and New York.
Millions of minutes of voice traffic are anticipated for these new
routes, with the potential to bring in upwards of $550,000 in additional
annual revenue. Due to the trade embargo with Cuba, the subsidiary will
legally operate like all other USA telcos by sending traffic to licensed
non-USA telecom carriers which in turn have direct connections to Cuba.

USNT President G. Giagnocavo said, "Because of our experience in other
Latin American countries, I am confident that the ability to handle
voice traffic to Cuba will give us a decided advantage over many other
telecom companies."

While execution and cost projections have proven the venture will be
profitable, the project is now currently pending corporate counsel's
review of current trade laws regarding the embargo in place with Cuba.

USNT is a growing family of New Generation tech companies using
Internet-enabled voice technology, called VoIP. VoIP technology allows
the Company's network to receive an incoming call and direct it to a
local USA Internet/telco POP (point of presence) where the call is then
transported over the Internet to its intended recipient.

The current share structure of USNT is 460,083,750 shares outstanding
with 240,763,800 Restricted and 2,000,000 Preferred shares.

About US National Telecom (USNT)

US National Telecom (PINKSHEETS: USNT) is a publicly traded technology
company, headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The Company is working to
create a large VoIP company by expanding its international voice traffic
and seeks to acquire companies in the VoIP marketspace.

Safe Harbor Statement: This release includes forward-looking statements,
made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the PSLA of 1995, that
involve major risks and uncertainties based on what may be faulty
assumptions or inaccurate statements. Financial information is based on
revenue and deposits for services, is unaudited and subject to
restatement. The Company is not obligated to revise or update any
forward-looking statements in order to reflect events or circumstances
that may arise after the date of this release.

Government reports private businesses slowly growing

Government reports private businesses slowly growing
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:38 AM EDT, March 27, 2008
Havana, Cuba

A new report by Cuba's National Office of Statistics estimated that the
cost of goods and services purchased from private sources rose 4 percent
in the last year.

The report, titled "Survey of Prices in the Informal Sector," represents
an unusual admission by the state of the role played by a private sector
that occupies about three percent of the Cuban labor force.

The report defines the informal market as the sale of goods and services
from sources outside the state, including sales at farmers markets and
by licensed entrepreneurs. It also includes the thriving black market
trade and the sale of goods such as food and medicine stolen or legally
obtained from the state and then resold.

The creation of an informal sector was among the measures that helped
Cuba survive the economic crisis brought by the collapse of the Soviet
block in the early 1990s. Self-employment, however, became less
necessary as the island's economy recovered in recent years.
Ray Sanchez Ray Sanchez E-mail | Recent columns

The government subsidizes many goods and services such as education,
health care, housing, public transportation, utilities and monthly food
rations that include five pounds of rice per person, cooking oil, beans,
chicken, sugar, soap and toothpaste.

Still, many Cubans – who earn the equivalent of about $20 a month – are
forced to rely on private sources, both legal and illegal, for other
goods and services that come at heftier prices. This vast informal
economy is greased by remittances from abroad, which are estimated at
between $500 million and $1 billion a year.

The government report said the goods and services most frequently
obtained from the private sector were rice, pizzas, eggs, pork,
manicures, cooking oil, lard, and the exchange of Cuban pesos earned by
state workers for convertible pesos needed to shop in hard currency stores.

In late 2006, a report on the informal sector by the Lexington
Institute, a think tank outside Washington, called the labor force a
significant alternative to state employment.

"Even as they operate under policies that reflect the state's discomfort
with the concept of private enterprise, they pay taxes and earn
higher-than-average incomes," it said. "For Cuba's future, this
entrepreneurial sector is significant as a potential starting point for
new policies, if Cuba's government were to decide once again to use
market mechanisms to generate jobs and growth.",0,3045972.column

Reuters: Cubans can fill prescriptions at any pharmacy

Reuters: Cubans can fill prescriptions at any pharmacy
Posted on Wed, Mar. 26, 2008

The Reuters news agency reports that Cuba has lifted a rule that forced
people to pick up prescription drugs from a pharmacy assigned by the
state -- part of President Raul Castro's effort to cut excessive
regulation in the Communist country.

Public health sources said Cubans can now buy their prescription drugs
at any pharmacy, Reuters reported.

Cuban program gives town a glimpse of life with a microwave

Cuban program gives town a glimpse of life with a microwave
Posted on Wed, Mar. 26, 2008
Associated Press

Ana Magdalena Melian, a spry 91-year-old, had never seen a microwave
oven until one landed in her kitchen courtesy of the communist government.

''There were some rich people in Havana who had a microwave, but the
rest of us didn't dream of one,'' said the great-grandmother who uses
the new Daewoo DC to prepare flan and defrost chicken.

About 3,000 households in Las Guasimas, a town just southeast of Havana
named for a stubby evergreen tree, were issued microwaves in December as
part of a pilot program.

Metallic white and barely big enough to hold a loaf of sandwich bread,
the Daewoos don't look like the key to Cuba's future. But many here hope
they mean new President Raul Castro will do away with bans prohibiting
Cubans from buying a host of consumer goods available nearly everywhere
else in the world.

For three months, officials visited families using the ovens and quizzed
them about the appliances' reliability while monitoring electricity

The ovens were such a hit here, local authorities say that Cuba's
supreme governing body, the Council of State, is considering offering
microwaves to families across the island on long-term credit.

Similar programs have allowed Cubans to pay off subsidized color
televisions, pressure cookers, air conditioners and refrigerators. But
microwaves, like computers and DVD players, have remained off limits to
buy for everyone but foreigners and companies.

''It's like the microwaves fell from the sky,'' said Marisa Gutierrez, a
49-year-old housewife who uses her backyard to grow beans and bananas
and is even raising a family of pigs she inherited.

''We hope there will be more in the future,'' she said. ``Computers,
telephones in every home.''

Gutierrez is a member of Las Guasimas' Revolutionary Defense Committee,
neighborhood groups that keep tabs on residents. The committee oversaw
the pilot program, and she said the government has thousands of
microwaves ready to be distributed on credit or sold in state-run stores.

According to an official-sounding but undated memo leaked to foreign
reporters this month, the new government already has approved
unrestricted sales of microwaves, computers, DVD players, television
sets of various sizes, electric bicycles and car alarms -- though none
of those items have yet appeared for general purchase in state-run
department or appliance stores.

''Based on the improved availability of electricity, the highest level
of government has approved the sale of some equipment which was
prohibited,'' it read.

Venezuelan oil subsidies have helped Cuba improve its creaky electric
grid in recent years, and credits from China have provided the island's
government the cash it needed to import consumer goods made there and in
South Korea.

The memo directs that computers, microwaves and other electronics be
sold in stores that charge in Cuban convertible pesos, worth 24 times as
much as the regular Cuban peso.

Under such a system, most Cubans would be unable to afford them. The
government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and the average
monthly state salary is just 408 Cuban pesos, a little less than $20.

Even under credit payments, the monthly microwave payments would still
be a struggle for many.

Las Guasimas residents have been allowed to keep their microwaves even
though the pilot program ended this month. But Gutierrez said they may
have to buy them on credit soon and that each appliance could cost as
much as 2,000 pesos or $90. Government-run electronics stores offer
slightly larger Daewoo ovens to foreigners and companies for about $175

Melian said her family now loves ''el microwave'' but the idea of having
to pay to keep it scares her.

''We still are missing a lot in our lives,'' she said. ``This helps, but
at what price?''

Her neighbor, 76-year-old retired truck driver Sergio Rodriguez, uses
his microwave to heat rice and milk.

''If they want to charge me, it will take 20 years to pay off,'' said
Rodriguez, who lives with his daughter and two grandchildren.

Both Melian and Rodriguez earn monthly pensions worth 230 Cuban pesos
per month, just under $10.

''The pension's not enough to buy anything and many people suffer,''
Rodriguez said.

But Gutierrez, the neighborhood committee member, said the microwaves
prove everyday life in Cuba will get easier under the new President Castro.

''Everyone here is Fidelista,'' she said using a common term for
supporters of ailing, 81-year-old former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
``But with Fidel, they never brought us microwaves.''

Will Cuba follow China's path?

Will Cuba follow China's path?
Column: Global Survey
Published: March 27, 2008

SHANGHAI, China, Cuba's National Assembly smoothly transferred the
country's presidency from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul Castro last
month. Although the succession was within the Castro family, the world
in general acclaimed this power transfer, hoping it would give Cuba a
new face to the world.

Former President Fidel Castro controlled the Caribbean island for 49
years. He was both a revolutionary and a symbol of nationalism to his
country. In 1959 he overthrew the regime of General Fulgencio Batista,
though the regime's collapse can be attributed as much to internal decay
as to the challenge of Castro's revolutionary movement.

The Cuban government later progressively dissolved the capitalist
system, establishing a centrally planned economy, which largely resulted
in Cuba's present difficult situation.

Cuba was largely dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse, and
isolated from international markets dominated by the United States. The
United States has embargoed the country since the 1960s, and extended
its policy in 1996 to penalize foreign companies that deal with Cuba.

Cuba's economy is now in a state of bankruptcy. Wages are inadequate,
housing and transportation are in crisis and the health and education
systems -- once the pride and joy of the revolution -- have deteriorated
badly. There are insufficient supplies of food, medicine and basic
industrial products. High unemployment has destabilized the country
economically and politically.

Cuba's current situation bears some resemblance to China's circumstances
in 1978, when China called for renovations in its static planned
collective economic system. From 1966-1976 China had endured the
Cultural Revolution, when all private commercial activities were banned
and the tightly controlled planned economy brought the people as well as
the economy to the brink of collapse.

Therefore, when the "capitalist roader" Deng Xiaoping came to power and
initiated his open-door policy, the Chinese people acclaimed him and
anticipated his reforms with great enthusiasm. Deng had been sacked by
Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China, because of
his capitalistic ideas.

Deng did not disappoint his people much. He successfully guided China
onto the track of reform, tried by various means to abolish Mao Zedong's
personality cult, suspended the ideology of class struggle, and
gradually introducing a market economy to China. In addition he adopted
flexible policies to take advantage of foreign direct investment,
setting up several special economic zones in China's coastal areas,
which set the example for other areas to follow in the process of

Deng's pragmatism has born great fruit. Since he began the reforms,
China's economy has experienced a consistent rise. Gross domestic
product reached US$3.43 trillion in 2007, according to the National
Bureau of Statistics, making it the third largest economy in the world
after the United States and Japan.

China is also the third largest exporting country after the United
States and Germany. The country's foreign currency reserves are the
highest in the world, surpassing US$1.4 trillion. China appears to have
shifted from a primarily agricultural country to an industrial one.

China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and will host the
Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.
It can be said that China has become a member of world society.

Furthermore, China has established healthier relationships with other
countries, especially the big Western powers, and has become active in
world affairs. It has been positively involved in international efforts
to handle issues in Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Over a period of 30
years, China has become a stakeholder and a member of international society.

Facing an economic situation similar to that of China 30 years ago, will
Raul Castro, like Deng Xiaoping, become a Cuban reformer? Will Cuba
follow China's path in opening its door to the outside world? And will
international society respond positively to possible reforms in Cuba?

Raul Castro has sent some signals that he may partly loosen controls on
the economy. For example, he plans to allow some Western luxury products
into Cuban markets, such as sunglasses, videos and cameras. However,
Castro's vision for modernization is not identical with Deng's, and
Cuba's background is not the same as China's.

First, Raul Castro has persistently supported and implemented Fidel
Castro's policies. He was an army general and defense minister for 49
years, hence, a de facto policy-maker. Having been so close to his
brother in the inner power circle, Raul Castro would not risk
accusations of abandoning his principles or tarnishing his family's
history and glory. Even if he does initiate some reforms, he will not go
so far as Deng, who had been ousted by the central leadership.

Secondly, the influence of the first generation of leaders in the Cuban
republic is still intact. Fidel Castro is still alive, as are other
senior leaders. Aging officials and other leftists will not allow Raul
to alter Cuba's Constitution or fundamentally change the socialist
system. For example, 75-year-old former Interior Minister Ramiro Valdes
has been a strong supporter of Fidel since 1953, when the Cuban
revolution began. He does not agree with Raul on matter of reform.

It can therefore be presumed that Raul Castro will not go so far in
carrying out reforms in Cuba. He is already 77 years old. He may take
some small steps to stabilize his power and make his mark on the
presidency, but that is all. In his address to the National Assembly,
Raul Castro proposed that Fidel should be consulted on important decisions.

Thirdly, the situation faced by Cuba is different from China's in some
ways. China's open-door policy benefited from the geopolitics of the
Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union were
competing for hegemony. Accordingly China and the United States, as well
as other Western countries, could cooperate economically regardless of
ideological differences.

After 1978, China was able to take advantage of the geopolitical
situation and attract large amounts of foreign direct investment,
especially from Japan, the United States and Western Europe. This
investment played a significant role in boosting China's economy in a
short time.

Cuba does not have the same advantage. Even if the new president wants
to reform, the supportive environment is lacking; the Cold War is over.
If the Soviet Union still existed, Western countries -- particularly the
United States -- might want to be first to assist Cuba economically.

However, in the foreseeable future, Cuba will only reluctantly distance
itself from socialism, taking a few aggressive steps to open to the
outside world. Unless Cuba resolutely declares that it is giving up
socialism, Western states, especially the United States, will not easily
abandon their hostile policies toward Cuba. They will merely continue
their containment strategy toward the island nation.

Therefore the assessment of Fidel Castro's daughter, Alina Fernandez --
who lives in the United States and has long opposed her father's regime
-- may be correct. She told CNN just after her uncle took over the
presidency, "I think that the government will remain mostly the same,
but I think they are going to bring on different faces that they need,"
she said.

The face of Cuba itself is unlikely to change significantly for awhile.


(Zhang Quanyi is an associate professor at the Zhejiang Wanli University
in Ningbo, China, and a Ph.D. candidate at Shanghai International
Studies University, studying policy making and collective identity. His
research interests focus on conflict management and identity
construction. He can be contacted at ©Copyright
Zhang Quanyi.)

Raul Castro's Cuba changing the rules

Raul Castro's Cuba changing the rules

Thursday, March 27th 2008, 4:00 AM

Change, that powerful concept that has propelled Sen. Barack Obama to
the top in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is also
working its magic 90 miles south of Florida.

On the island of Cuba - as in the U.S. - people are eagerly awaiting
change. One month after Raul Castro became president, Cubans are looking
forward to the reforms that government officials have been talking about
for the last few months.

"A process of change has begun on the island, and Cubans have embraced
it," said Mariana Gastón, a Cuban-born Brooklyn teacher who just
returned from Havana.

Change is immediately noticeable in the famously stale Cuban press.
Encouraged by Raul Castro's call for more criticism and open discussion,
the main newspaper in the country, Granma, has been covering for the
first time stories on corruption, theft, waste and inadequacies in the
centralized economy.

The Cuban people also have paid heed to Castro's call, and there is a
great deal of debate among intellectuals, students and workers. Problems
with the food supply, freedom to travel and inequalities caused by the
"dollarization" of the economy have all been topics of debate.

Many of the reforms have been reported as if they were already in force,
but most have not been implemented yet. It is expected that they will
happen soon.

"They [the Cuban government] are giving careful consideration to changes
and reforms," said Álvaro Fernández, president of the Cuban American
Commission for Family Rights in Miami.

Fernández and Gastón were part of a group of 129 Cubans from 40
countries who traveled to Havana on March 19 for a three-day meeting
with government representatives.

Many attendees thought Cuba would announce at the meeting the end of
travel restrictions for Cubans on the island and for those living abroad
wishing to visit their homeland. It did not happen.

"Nothing really new was announced," Fernández added. "I think that there
is still a back and forth in regards to what reforms can and should be

That is not surprising. As long as the failed 50-year U.S. trade embargo
and travel ban remain in place, reforms will happen slowly and
cautiously. President Bush's recent hardening of positions - and his
refusal to consider a dialogue with Havana - does nothing to speed up

Yet, some reforms - even the promise of them - already are affecting the
lives of Cubans.

The authorization to some farmers to buy their own supplies and
equipment goes along with Castro's emphasis on increasing food
production - and should be put in place soon. But much more is expected.

In a speech last July 26, Castro announced structural reforms, mainly in
agriculture. They could include turning over land to the peasants who
farm it.

Public transportation, a longtime nightmare for the population, has seen
some improvement with the arrival of Chinese-made buses. Also, it has
been reported that Cubans will be permitted to stay in tourist hotels.

Already Cubans can buy computers and other appliances, one of the things
people had said they wanted.

The normalization of relations with Mexico and the recent visit of a
very high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Bertoni, are also signs of
a new opening.

Skeptics in Washington and Miami will keep dismissing the significance
of changes in Cuba. But the Cuban people and anyone who knows anything
about their country realize their importance.

"The Cuban people are not looking back," Gastón said. "They are looking
only to the future."

Cuba Allows Residents To Receive 1st Microwaves

Cuba Allows Residents To Receive 1st Microwaves
HAVANA (CBS4) ― An appliance that is taken for granted in just about
every home in America could soon be coming to thousands of kitchens in Cuba.

It's the microwave oven.

"In the past, only people with money had them; poor people couldn't have
one. The only way was by paying in installments and you had to have a
good salary in order to pay. Not any more. Now the revolution gave us
one to test and if it works out, they'll give one to whomever wants
one," said 91-yer old Ana Magdalena Melian who had never seen a
microwave oven until one came to her kitchen courtesy of the Cuban
communist government.

About 3,000 households in Las Guasimas, a village just southeast of the
Cuban capital of Havana, got microwaves in late December as part of a
state-run pilot program.

Over a three month period, families were asked how they used the ovens,
if the Chinese made microwaves were reliable and how much electricity
they used.

The microwaves were such a hit that Cuba's supreme governing body, the
Council of State, is considering offering them to families across the
island on credit that could be paid back over a long period of time.

Similar credit programs have for decades allowed Cubans to slowly pay
off subsidized color television sets, pressure cookers, air conditioners
and refrigerators.

The microwave ovens are symbolic of a new hope for Cuba's future - many
are hoping the appliances and the pilot program that brought them to Las
Guasimas mean new President Raul Castro's government is ready to do away
with longstanding restrictions on some consumer goods.

"What I feel is what the whole town feels. We are very happy. We're
living a new experience and the results are satisfying," said Marisa
Gutierrez, a 49-year-old housewife.

According to an official-sounding but undated memo leaked to foreign
reporters this month, the new government already has approved
unrestricted sales of microwaves, computers, DVD players and television
sets of various sizes, as well electric bicycles and car alarms - though
none of those items have yet appeared on the shelves of state-run
department or appliance stores. The leaked memo seemed to suggest the
island's improved power grid was partly the reason for the decision to
allow greater access to consumer goods which run on electricity.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has provided his close friend and
socialist alley Fidel Castro with a number of generous oil subsidies and
other aid to help Cuba improve its creaky power grid. Also, credits from
China have provided the island's government the cash to buy consumer
goods made there.

Since officially succeeding his brother Fidel on February 24, the
76-year-old Raul Castro has pledged to make improving Cubans' everyday
quality of life a top priority.

The 'leaked' memo directs that computers, microwaves and other items be
sold in top department stores that charge in Cuban Convertible Pesos,
worth 24 times as much as the regular Cuban peso, which state employees
are paid in. Under such a system, most Cubans wouldn't be able to afford
the new appliances they would suddenly be allowed to buy. The government
estimates 60 percent of the island's population has access to
Convertible Pesos, dollars or other foreign currency thanks to jobs in
tourism, with foreign firms or relatives living in the United States.
The average monthly salary in Cuba is about 17 US dollars.

Facilitan compra de hornos de microondas en Cuba

Facilitan compra de hornos de microondas en Cuba

Los Daewoo son más bien pequeños y apenas admiten una barra de pan de
molde. No cambiarán el futuro del país, pero el programa alienta las
esperanzas de que el nuevo gobierno
Facilitan compra de hornos de microondas en CubaFacilitan compra de
hornos de microondas en Cuba
El Universal
Las Guasimas
Jueves 27 de marzo de 2008

08:54 Con sus 91 años, Ana Magdalena Melián nunca había visto un horno
de microondas hasta que el gobierno comunista de Cuba le facilitó uno a
fines del año pasado.

"Algunos ricos de La Habana tenían microondas, pero el resto de nosotros
no", comentó la anciana, quien usa su nuevo microondas Daewoo para
preparar flanes y descongelar pollos.

Unos tres mil hogares de Las Guasimas, barrio al sudeste de La Habana,
recibieron microondas en diciembre como parte de un programa piloto del

Los Daewoo son más bien pequeños y apenas admiten una barra de pan de
molde. No cambiarán el futuro del país, pero el programa alienta las
esperanzas de que el nuevo gobierno de Raúl Castro elimine las
restricciones a la compra de artículos de consumo disponibles en casi
todo el mundo, pero no en Cuba.

Durante tres meses, funcionarios del gobierno visitaron las casas que
habían recibido los microondas y preguntaron a la gente si los aparatos
eran confiables, al tiempo que observaron el consumo de electricidad.

Los aparatos tuvieron un éxito rotundo, al punto de que las autoridades
están hablando de suministrarle uno a todas las familias del país, con
créditos a largo plazo.

Programas parecidos permitieron a los cubanos adquirir televisores de
color, ollas a presión, aires acondicionados y refrigeradoras. Pero
hasta ahora no había acceso a microondas, computadoras y reproductores
de DVD, que estaban disponibles únicamente para empresas y extranjeros.

"Es como si nos hubieran caído del cielo", comentó Marisa Gutiérrez, un
ama de casa de 49 años que cultiva frijoles y bananos en el patio
trasero de su casa y tiene unos cerdos que heredó de su familia.

"Esperamos más en el futuro. Esperamos que haya computadoras y teléfonos
en todas las casas", agregó.

Gutiérrez integra el Comité de Defensa de la Revolución de Las Guasimas,
el cual vigila lo que ocurre en el barrio y fue el encargado de observar
el funcionamiento de los microondas. La mujer dijo que el gobierno tiene
miles de microondas listos para su distribución.

Según un informe presuntamente oficial que llegó a manos de la prensa
extranjera este mes, el gobierno ya aprobó la venta irrestricta de
microondas, computadoras, reproductoras de DVDs, aparatos de televisión
de distintos tamaños, bicicletas eléctricas y alarmas para autos, pero
todavía no se ve ninguno de estos artículos en los comercios
administrados por el estado.

El informe dice que ante el aumento en la capacidad de generar
electricidad que se ha registrado en el país, se aprobó "la
comercialización de algunas líneas de equipos cuya venta estaba prohibida".

Subsidios petrolíferos venezolanos ayudaron a Cuba a aliviar sus
problemas de suministro de energía en los últimos años y créditos de
China le dieron al gobierno dinero que le permitió importar artículos de
consumo fabricados en ese país y en Corea del Sur.

El informe dispone que los aparatos sean vendidos en negocios que
reciben pesos convertibles, que valen 24 veces lo que vale un peso
cubano normal.

La mayoría de los cubanos no estará en condiciones de adquirir esos
aparatos si se tiene en cuenta que el salario estatal promedio asciende
a 408 pesos, poco más de 20 dólares. Gutiérrez dijo que los microondas
costarán unos 2.000 pesos, o 90 dólares.

Incluso a crédito, los microondas representarán una carga demasiado
pesada para muchos.

Melián afirmó que su familia está encantada con el microondas, pero que
la idea de tener que pagar por él la asusta.

"Todavía nos faltan muchas cosas en nuestras vidas. Esto nos ayuda, pero
¿a qué precio?", expresó.

Su vecino, el camionero jubilado Sergio Rodríguez, de 76 años, usa el
microondas para recalentar arroz y leche.

"Si me quieren cobrar, voy a tardar 20 años en pagar", declaró
Rodríguez, quien vive con su hija y dos nietos.

Tanto Melián como Rodríguez cobran una jubilación mensual de 230 pesos
cubanos, menos de 10 dólares.

"Con esta pensión no se paga nada. Hay muchas que sufren", señaló Rodríguez.

Gutiérrez opina que los microondas son un indicio de que las cosas
mejorarán bajo el gobierno de Raúl Castro.

"Nací fidelista. Todos aquí somos fidelistas. Pero con Fidel, nunca nos
dieron un microondas", dijo la mujer.