01:38 PM

Changes In Cuba Lead To Cell Phone Distribution

Raul Castro has is loosened the reins in the Caribbean country giving citizens the right to purchase and use DVDs and cell phones, but at what price?

Thousands of Cubans are enjoying their second day with a leading imperialist invention -- cell phones -- but they are finding that the lack of a free enterprise system translates into very high prices, so high even that a simple cell phone can cost six month's salary.

With the health of longtime dictator Fidel Castro slipping, Raul Castro, his brother, is loosening the reins in the Caribbean country giving citizens the right to purchase and use DVDs and cell phones. The younger Castro, who took over from his ailing brother in February, also is moving to allow some Cubans to own their houses.

While ordinary Cubans were blocked from owning cell phones, a black market for the devices has thrived for years. Foreigners visited Cuba and left their GSM standard phones behind.

The coveted handsets are selling for nearly double the price the devices can be purchased for in the U.S. A service contract costs about $120 to activate, the Associated Press said. A barebones phone costs about $75 and a more advanced handset with a digital phone typically costs about $280. Calls to the U.S. are $2.70 a minute.

High ranking Cuban officials have been using cell phones since 1991 when the handsets made their first appearance in the Caribbean country.

For years, Fidel Castro, who took over Cuba around 1960, had fought authorizing the imperialistic devices, but his brother has loosened the grip on the country.

One longtime observer of Cuban society said the move toward legalizing cell phones was inevitable, because the mobile phones had been working their way into the island society anyway. "I think it is a sign that the black market was awash with those things for years and there is no way that they can be effectively policed," said Chris McGillion, a senior research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington in a statement. "So the Cuban authorities are, on the one hand, basically just bowing to the inevitable.

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