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
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
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
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.