Today, Cuba officially lifted its ban on the sale of computers to the general public.
Some other prohibitions have also been scrapped in recent weeks: Cubans
can now buy cell phones, stay in hotels previously reserved for
tourists, and buy appliances like microwaves and TV sets.
Is this a sign of openness from Cuba’s geriatric regime? Not so.
A Cuban dissident I met in Havana last year sent me today an article
he wrote about the real motive behind relaxing these bans. It has been
reported in the state-controlled media that people purchasing these
goods are later being investigated by the authorities who want to know
the real sources of their income. As it’s widely known, the average
Cuban salary is less than $20 a month, while the cost of most of these
goods ranges in the hundreds of dollars. Many Cubans get their extra
money from relatives in the United States, but many others run
independent (and illicit) small businesses.
My friend tells the story of the first person to purchase an
electric bicycle, which cost the equivalent of $1,070. This man had a
small butter factory that apparently was very profitable, since he was
selling the butter at a lower price than the government. After buying
his electric bicycle, the authorities investigated him and discovered
his factory. They proceeded to confiscate everything they found in his
home, including the bike.
Let’s not forget that, after all, there is still a Castro brother
running the show on the island. As my Cuban friend says about the
so-called “reforms,” the fact that something is no longer prohibited
doesn’t mean that you can do it.