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
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. Cuba
"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
since July 2006 when his older brother Fidel Castro provisionally handed over power after intestinal surgery from which he has not fully recovered. Cuba
The younger Castro was formally named president on February 24, becoming
'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. Cuba
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.
's electricity supplies permit, additional appliances to be sold freely in 2010 include toasters and electric ovens, the memo said. Cuba
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
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 Havana 's command economy. Cuba
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.
Cubaput an end to power cuts in 2006 by importing hundreds of electricity generators run on fuel supplied by , its main foreign ally. Venezuela
Raul Castro has encouraged debate of
'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. Cuba
In December, he said
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." Cuba
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.
♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Latin America at 3/15/2008 03:26:00 AMMarxists and globophobes may be saddened by the news that Cuba under its new Maximum Leader Raul Castro will soon allow the purchase of vile imported consumerist filth of all sorts by the proletariat. Setting Cuba down the road to a consumer culture may very well brainwash its pure-minded people into believing that, gee, maybe there are benefits to be gained from a market-based society after all. Oddly enough, this burst of consumerist degeneracy has been funded by energy giveaways care of the arch-Bolivarian himself, Hugo Chavez. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba had to curtail the sale of home appliances to cut down on power usage as the USSR no longer provided Cuba with cheap fuel. Hence, there was a ban in place for quite some time on these devices until Hugo's largess changed things. Viva la consumer revolucion!!! From Reuters: