First microwaves, now cell phones. Is this the new Cuba? Raul Castro is revolutionizing his brother's island in small but significant ways — the latest in a decree Friday allowing ordinary Cubans to have cell phone service, a luxury previously reserved for the select few. The new president could be betting greater access to such modern gadgets will quell demand for deeper change.
Clearly, Raul is a Dear Leader when compared to his older brother's Imperious Leader, right? But of course.
Let's read further.
Could cellular phones in dissidents' hands give state security forces an edge in monitoring their conversations or tracking their movements by satellite? Perhaps, but government opponents — including the few who have cell phones — already assume someone's always listening.
If you really thought that George Bush was listening on your phone calls, you'd watch what you say. But you know he's not, so you don't. Cubans don't have that luxury. But they're just brown-skinned people living in a tropical paradise, right? What use do they have for bourgeois concepts like freedom and privacy? Heck, they probably like the thought of being thrown into prison. Maybe it's part of their culture.
Come on, lefties, defend Castro's record. Do it. I want you to.
There are two more statements from one man in the article, statements that will put the lie to any defense you offer.
The new program could put phones in the hands of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, especially those with relatives abroad who send them hard currency. But they will remain out of reach for most on the island because minutes are billed in convertible pesos — which cost Cubans 24 times the regular pesos they are paid in.
"I'd love one!" said Juan Quiala, a retiree living on a $10 monthly pension. "But how am I going to pay for it?"
The government controls over 90 percent of the economy, and while the communist system ensures most Cubans have free housing, education and health care and receive ration cards that cover basic food needs, the average monthly state salary is less than $20...
But some said the latest measure was less than revolutionary.
"Suddenly, there will be a lot more people talking on the phone," said Quiala, the retiree. "But not much else will change."
We can debate the success of the Cuban housing, education, health care, dual currency, and food distribution programs, but it's kind of difficult to dispute Sr. Quiala's points.
All humans yearn to breathe free.