now open: cuban hotels to cubans

Posted on April 1, 2008

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Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raul, who took over in February as the president of Cuba from the ailing Fidel, sure moves fast.

castro_raul.jpg

Following his pledge to make major reforms, he has done it again, in a quick succession of moves.

This time, Cubans are allowed to check into the country’s hotels and play tourist, a perk that was previously available only to foreigners. This new ruling follows the recent loosening of rules to allow Cubans to own cellphones and buy consumer electronic products.

But once again, Raul’s augmentation of personal freedoms for ordinary Cubans might only be enjoyed by the wealthier spectrum of Cuban society.

Hotel room rates, cellphone charges and computers & DVDs are dealt with in hard currency, Cuba’s Convertible Peso, which is about 24 times the amount of the local non-convertible Cuban peso. Unfortunately, most Cubans are paid in the local currency and make around $20 a month. So these new initiatives will remain just as out of reach for many Cubans, who simply don’t have the economic means to afford them.

The moves, however small and symbolic, are at least steps in the right direction and give hope about further changes the Cuban government might be bold enough to undertake.

Now, Raul’s next moves will be closely watched, to see if he might proceed with even bigger gestures, such as giving Cubans the ability to travel overseas freely or access to the internet.

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Posted in: cuba, freedom, politics