Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Cubans flock to buy mobile phones after bans -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

LISA MILLAR: Hundreds of people have lined up outside phone shops in Cuba's capital Havana, for
their first chance, to legally own a mobile phone.

It's one of the bans being lifted under the new government of Raul Castro, who replaced his older
brother Fidel in February.

But analysts don't expect much more liberalisation of this communist country.

Brigid Glanville reports.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Like many desirable commodities in Cuba, mobile phones have long been available
on the black market but until now they have been illegal.

But with the arrival of Fidel Castro's younger brother as President, the times are changing.

From today a Cuban may own their mobile phone and like millions around the world pay for calls with
pre-paid cards.

It's been a popular decision with hundreds of Cubans queuing to buy a phone.

CUBAN MAN (translated): I like this measure that the government has taken and I hope that it is a
good way to keep in touch. Both internally and internationally.

CUBAN MAN 2 (translated): Before you had to find a foreigner and the foreigner would take out the
phone lines. Now any Cuban can do it. We have the same rights as any other person in the world and
can get a telephone line.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The former president of the communist country, Fidel Castro imposed a number of
other restrictions which have also been lifted.

Cubans are now allowed to buy DVD players, computers and other electronic goods. They can also stay
at hotels previously reserved for tourists.

Manuel Rodriguez is a builder in the capital Havana.

MANUEL RODRIGUEZ (translated): If you are driving around in a car and the car breaks down and there
is no-one with you, it is somewhat difficult tracking down a telephone but if you have a cell
phone, you can call any of your friends that has a car and they can help you out.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Chris McGillion has written a number of books on Cuba and is a senior research
fellow with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington DC.

He's not surprised the ban on mobile phones has been lifted.

CHRIS MCGILLION: 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 so the Cuban authorities are, on the one
hand, basically just bowing to the inevitable but making a virtue out of it and calling it a degree
of liberalisation.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Chris McGillion also says he doesn't expect this to be the first of many changes
that the new President, Raul Castro makes.

CHRIS MCGILLION: Well, it is a very measured step. I don't think under Raul we are going to see
massive liberalisation or a massive change in direction. Raul's main priorities over the next
couple of years or so will be basically concerned with security.

He has been something of an economic reformer. Not a major one but he has kind of sailed with the
economic reformers in the past so I think there will be kind of liberalisation at the margins but
again, the impact of these things can be exaggerated.

The reality of what is available in Cuba and particularly around Havana in terms of access to
outside news broadcasts and so forth, often belies what is officially available.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: While hundreds have gone out and bought phones, the majority of Cuban's can't
afford one. It's estimated the average wage for Cubans is 400 Cuban pesos, or $US18 a month. The
mobile phone service is estimated to cost about nine months' of the average pay.

LISA MILLAR: Brigid Glanville.