Bush sends a message
New U.S. rules will allow cell phones to go to Cuba
By DEB RIECHMANN | The Associated Press
May 22, 2008
WASHINGTON – President Bush announced Wednesday that people living in
the United States soon will be allowed to send cell phones to Cubans on
the island nation — a move that he hopes will push the communist regime
to increase freedom of expression for Cuban citizens.
Addressing recent changes in Cuba, Bush said, "Cubans are now allowed to
purchase mobile phones, DVD players and computers and they have been
told that they will be able to purchase toasters and other basic
appliances in 2010.
"If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban
people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful,"
Bush said at the White House as he marked Cuba's 106th anniversary of
independence this week.
If the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, "they should be
trusted to speak freely in public," he said.
Dan Fisk, National Security Council senior director for Western
hemisphere affairs, emphasized that the new policy, which is to take
effect in a few weeks, is not a loosening of the U.S. economic embargo
against Cuba but a change in U.S. regulations that will allow cell
phones to be in gift parcels that people living in this country can send
The Cuban government had no immediate comment on whether the new
cellular phones would make it through the island customs without incident.
American cell phones with service contracts from the United States work
on some parts of the island, but service is not always reliable and
depends on the phones' specifications.
Fisk said U.S. cell phones work in Cuba, and those living in the United
States can also pay for the U.S. cell service attached to the phones
At the White House, Bush repeated his offer to license U.S.
nongovernmental organizations and religious groups to provide computers
and access to the Internet to the Cuban people.
"If Cuban rulers will end their restrictions on Internet access, and
since Raul is allowing Cubans to own mobile phones for the first time,
we're going to change our regulations to allow those in this country to
send mobile phones to family members in Cuba," Bush said.
He said that if Raul Castro, who took the country's reins when his
brother, Fidel, stepped down as president in February, is serious about
his so-called reforms, he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people.
Raul Castro has abolished bans on owning cell phones, staying in tourist
hotels, and buying DVD players, computers and coveted kitchen appliances.
He also has acknowledged that state salaries are too small to live on
and pledged steady improvements.
Joe Garcia, former head of the Cuban American National Foundation who is
running to unseat Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, called the
new cell-phone rule a cosmetic policy change.
"If George Bush were serious about effectuating change in Cuba, he would
immediately grant Cuban-Americans unrestricted family visitation and
remittance rights," said Garcia, a Democrat.