Following up on recent work on the power of mobile communications in the developing world, the Bush Administration has provided an important step on this issue in its Cuba policy. Americans will be allowed to purchase and pay bills for cell phones that they can ship to Cuba.
From yesterday’s New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
President Bush announced Wednesday that Americans would soon be allowed to give their relatives in Cuba cell phones to use. The move is intended to challenge Cuba’s new leader, Raul Castro, to make good on his promises of reform, by giving ordinary Cubans more freedom to communicate with one another and the outside world.
“If the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, they should be trusted to speak freely in public,” Mr. Bush said, during a White House ceremony attended by dozens of Cuban-Americans, including the families of imprisoned dissidents. He added, “The world is watching the Cuban regime.”Since Mr. Castro succeeded his ailing 81-year-old brother, Fidel, in February, he has initiated a series of changes in the country, including opening up access to cell phones, computers and DVD players.
But most Cubans cannot afford to buy such luxuries, Mr. Bush said, so the policy changes have amounted so far to “nothing more than a cruel joke perpetuated on a long-suffering people.” He added, “If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful.”
We at NDN applaud this move by the Bush administration, but the fact is that this move is far too little in terms of broader Cuba policy. It is a positive development that the administration is on board with mobile communications as a tool to advance human rights. The lessons from China and Egypt, among others, are too significant to ignore.