Cell Phones for Cubans, But On $10-20 Per Month?
HAVANA--Raul Castro is revolutionizing his brother's island in small but significant ways — the latest in a decree Friday allowing ordinary Cubans to have cell phone service, a luxury previously reserved for the select few.
Many Cubans hope cell phones and new appliances are only the beginning for a post-Fidel Castro government that will improve their lives. Communist bureaucracy currently limits everything from Internet access to home ownership.
The new program could put phones in the hands of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, but they will remain out of reach for most on the island because minutes are billed in convertible pesos — which cost Cubans 24 times the regular pesos they are paid in.
"I'd love one!" said Juan Quiala, a retiree living on a $10 monthly pension. "But how am I going to pay for it?"
The government controls over 90% of the economy, and while the communist system ensures most Cubans have free housing, education and health care and receive ration cards that cover basic food needs, the average monthly state salary is only $20.