Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Havana Calling

It's time to lift the communications embargo on Cuba.

Fidel Castro may have looked weak and confused at times during his TV
appearance this week, but the rare prime-time address by the former
Cuban leader had the desired effect: He managed, for a day, to recapture
the media spotlight and demonstrate that he was lucid enough to be aware
of his government's promised release of 52 political prisoners. Most of
the attention afterward was spent commenting on the softball questions
he was asked and his apparent decision to trade in his olive fatigues
for a tracksuit. But sartorial issues aside, the reappearance of Cuba's
octogenarian revolutionary (an oxymoron if there ever was one) sent a
strong signal to Cuba watchers that the prisoner release does not herald
a softening of policy under the rule of his brother, Raul Castro.

This leaves Washington in a quandary. Last week's release of the 52
prisoners — independent journalists and human rights activists rounded
up in the March, 2003 Black Spring crackdown — may have reduced the
number of political prisoners rotting in Cuban jails to the lowest level
in decades, but it was still, at best, a superficial act. Restrictions
and state control over freedom of association and expression remain and
there are still scores of prisoners being held for the inventive and
uniquely Cuban offense of peligrosidad — "dangerousness" — often used
to round up opponents under vague accusations of espionage. In addition
to the now-estimated 120 political prisoners held in Cuban jails, the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor Alan Gross,
arrested in December for distributing laptops and cell phones to Cuba's
small Jewish community, remains in prison without formal charges brought
against him.

Given this, it would be a mistake for Washington to overreact, engaging
Havana with open arms over what was, in effect, a publicity stunt by the
Castro brothers. On the other hand, intentionally antagonizing the
regime by ramping up demands or dismissing the gesture would be equally

But the United States can respond to this gesture in a way that benefits
Cuban society and individuals without legitimizing the regime or
provoking a hostile reaction by the anti-Castro lobby in the United
States. Ironically, that means doing what President Barack Obama has
promised to do all along: follow through on his pledge from last April
to loosen restrictions on U.S. telecom activities in Cuba and assist
U.S. business in providing the tools for Cubans to communicate beyond
the prison walls of the Castros' island nation.

Unlike lifting the trade embargo on Cuba, which would require an act of
Congress, these changes could be made by executive order, avoiding a
politically costly battle with pro-embargo legislators. But more
importantly, granting greater scope for U.S. telecom companies to sell
cell-phones, software, and laptops in Cuba and establish the necessary
infrastructure to make them work — such as cell phone towers and
routers — would look generous, while loosening the Castro regime's
control over its people.

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