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Cuba Lifts Ban on Home Computers 290

ianare writes "The first legalized home computers have gone on sale in Cuba, the latest in a series of restrictions on daily life which President Raul Castro has lifted in recent weeks. The desktop computers cost almost $800, in a country where the average wage is under $20 a month, but some Cubans do have access to extra income. Internet access remains restricted to certain workplaces, schools and universities on the island which the government claims is due to low bandwidth availability. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is laying a new cable under the Caribbean, but it remains unclear whether once the connection is completed, the authorities will allow unrestricted access to the internet."
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Cuba Lifts Ban on Home Computers

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  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan,jared&gmail,com> on Saturday May 03, 2008 @09:49AM (#23283870)
    Just because it costs less than 800 dollars in the rest of the world doesn't mean that it will be that cheap inside the country. Any market for importing old hardware is likely to be a black market, so the prices will be steep. It's the right step to allow personal computers in Cuba, but the majority of the people are a long way from it making any difference at all.

    Just an idea, since my US government is all about supporting an open and free Cuba, it might not be bad idea to lead some sort of initiative to proliferate computers to the people. I know the government might frown upon something like this, but it would give America the moral high ground, which is something neither side has been worthy of so far.
  • by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @09:49AM (#23283872)

    The main problem I see is that they are using mostly unlicensed copy of windows, since Windows licenses can't be acquired in Cuba.

    Hey, how come Cubans can order PCs and not have to pay for Windows? Heck, they are already once step ahead of us.

    If the US was smart, strike and agreement with Cuba, given them decent pipe access via Florida so long as they put 1 million uncensored PCs on it in say 2-3 years. That will reach 1 in 11 Cubans. Free flow of information is a true friend of democracy.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @09:51AM (#23283882)

    The main problem I see is that they are using mostly unlicensed copy of windows, since Windows licenses can't be acquired in Cuba.
    How's that a problem? Cuba's a classic example of the kind of place where Microsoft would far rather people pirate Windows than use Ubuntu legitimately - get 'em hooked then tighten the anti-piracy screws later.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:04AM (#23283950) Homepage Journal

    just to be stolen and sold as soon as they arrive to the country, as happens with every single truck that goes to Africa

    Either share your wealth with us, or we'll share our poverty with you.

    It applies to more than just 1st vs 3rd world.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:06AM (#23283956)
    Cuba has multiple satellite uplinks which are capable of internet traffic, though it's *very* expensive, and as anyone whos ever tried to use satellite connections knows, it can be slow as hell. Couple with that the single T-3 (probably still channelized---demuxers are evidently "sensitive" equipment), and yeah, there are some major bandwidth issues. So settle down and lose the McCarthy bullshit, thanks.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:06AM (#23283962) Homepage Journal
    Keeping Cuba locked down is critical to our ideological bullshit. Maintaining the embargo encourages others to do so, which depresses Cuba and causes them to be less successful, which we get to blame on ideology and use as a reason why we must go on a holy war to spread Democracy throughout the world (perhaps we should start here first, eh?) We don't actually want Democracy in Cuba, or we WOULD HAVE opened up to them. The real issue is that our government fears free speech. Cubans can actually get health care...
  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:07AM (#23283964)
    You of course are aware that Cuba has way better medical care for its citizens than the US does?

    Think they'll like to pass on getting US style medical.
  • by Karem Lore ( 649920 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:20AM (#23284034)
    You'd be surprised at how resourceful Cuban people are...I am amazed at how they make some of those old cars still work with no parts available...
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:22AM (#23284046)
    They don't have better care. Somewhat ironically, they have more democratic care, but that's about average availability, not level of quality.

    The US probably even delivers more care per person on average, it just gets concentrated more.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:24AM (#23284054)
    If you sold me a loaf of bread and I sold it to Cuba, would you be culpable?

    Why would you think that software would be any different? If Microsoft was involved in setting up intermediaries to deliver software to Cuba and it happened at the board level Balmer might get some heat for it, but he can't do a whole lot to stop a distributor in Mexico from shipping stuff to Cuba.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @10:46AM (#23284166) Homepage Journal
    Morals are relative.
  • by BattleCat ( 244240 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:00AM (#23284268)
    Uh huh. Calm down and realize it's USofA who's largely responsible for current situation - lift embargo, and _then_ blame Castro.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:03AM (#23284284)
    And yet there isn't a whole lot Microsoft can do to stop a distributor in Mexico from shipping the boxes to Cuba. If Microsoft honored the license they would be in violation of the law, but I don't see how the mere presence of the software in Cuba is automagically their responsibility.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:27AM (#23284392) Journal
    .I am amazed at how they make some of those old cars still work with no parts available...

    Do you realize that is a sign of how far your country has fallen? It was when people said that of your people that your country was great. Now, you rely on exploitative economics and war where once you relied on yourselves, and marvel that a people could take care of themselves.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:47AM (#23284504) Journal

    Basically, the American restrictions on Cuba are total bullshit, and the rest of the world knows it. however, due to longstanding imperialist policies (like the Monroe doctrine) Cuba falls under the geographic hegemony of the USA. This was challenged by the CCCP from 1959 - 1991. When the Russians collapsed, Cuba had some "special times", like super special shitty times, that the draconian and retarded embargo by the USA only enhanced.

    There are no American restrictions on Cubans. The American restrictions are on Americans (with a few even more bullshit extensions attempting to extend the embargo to non-American companies who deal with Americans; even Canada won't put up with that shit) . And calling an embargo "imperialist" is pretty rich... what would you call it if the US had normal relations with Cuba and there was a Starbucks and a McDonalds on every corner in Havana? Oh, right... you'd call it "cultural imperialism" or something similar.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @11:53AM (#23284546)
    You nailed it. And for anyone who thinks the embargo has nothing to do with saving American face, why is it that the USA trades freely and openly with China (which is communist and has a much worse record of human rights abuses), but not Cuba?
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @12:19PM (#23284710)

    Their facilities and services for foreigners is among the best in the world
    More bullshit from someone who has never even been to Cuba let alone used their medical care for foreigners. Where do you people come up with this stuff? I used to live there. It is not true. Their medical care, even for foreigners is about what you would expect from some poor country in Central Africa. I wish they would at least stop reusing needles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @01:04PM (#23284948)

    If they have a MRI, it is probably booked up for the elite. Do you think some farmer is getting top of the line treatment?
    And this differs from the US how, exactly?

    Farmers in the US have to pay for their own health insurance, which may not actually cover the tests they need. Trust me on this. I've gotten socked for $2000 for a test DESPITE having health insurance and DESPITE it being supposedly covered. Why? I don't know, but the insurance company sure as hell wouldn't pay.

    There's nothing quite like having a sudden unbudgeted $2000 expense. It's one of the reason my credit card is maxed out.

    Then you have to realize that quite a few people in the US simply can't get health insurance. Due to insurance companies refusing to pay for care for "preexisting conditions" it's quite easy for some in the US to be unable to pay for treatment because they simply cannot get affordable health insurance.

    You know who ends up paying in the long run? We do. Because the person with no insurance, who can't get insurance at reasonable rates, will eventually wind up in the emergency room. And the emergency room, by law, can't refuse patients. When they STILL can't pay, every one else has to pay via increased medical costs.

    Try actually getting sick in the US before declaring the US system the best ever. You'll change your tune quite quickly. I'll take long waits over simply being refused treatment.
  • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @01:11PM (#23285010)

    First, Cubans are not educated about democracy
    Are americans taught about marxism? Not as much as they are taught about american history and patriotism, both countries are indoctrinated, not quite as blatently as the Chinese "patriot re-education act", but pretending americans arnt indoctrinated is pretty dumb.

    Second issue, wages. Do you want Cuban wages? It is part of the package. Government excise taxes on exports prohibit paying you more.
    Thats thier economic system completly unrelated to free speach, much more related to this big country next door to them spending 50 years trying to crush them.

    and I bet by American standards you would not want their health care. If they have a MRI, it is probably booked up for the elite. Do you think some farmer is getting top of the line treatment?
    Please get a clue, sure they dont have MRI, but the result of there efforts is pretty much the same as yours, but dont take my word for it, both BBC newsnight (image a faux report but without the bullshit)The report noted that:

    "Thanks chiefly to the American economic blockade, but partly also to the web of strange rules and regulations that constrict Cuban life, the economy is in a terrible mess: national income per head is minuscule, and resources are amazingly tight. Healthcare, however, is a top national priority" The report stated that life expectancy and infant mortality rates are pretty much the same as the USA's. Its doctor-to-patient ratios stand comparison to any country in Western Europe. Its annual total health spend per head, however, comes in at $251; just over a tenth of the UK's.
    So after the american 50 year blockade, they have the same success rate in staying alive (thats the key factor in health care btw), but everything is run to shit, so its all done for just $251 per person.

    and a UK parliamentary commitee, went over and made a similar report:

    * There appeared to be little evidence of a divide between the prevention/proactive response and the disease management/reactive response within Cuban healthcare.
            * In Cuba it was one doctor per 175 people, in the UK the figure was one doctor per 600 people.
            * There is a commitment in Cuba to the triple diagnosis (physical/psychological/social) at all levels.
            * Extensive involvement of "patient" and the public in decision making at all levels.
            * Integration of hospital/community/primary care via polyclinics.
            * Team-work that works is much more evident both in the community and the hospital sector and the mental-health and care of the elderly sites visited were very well staffed and supported.
    Ofc it does have flaws

    # Low pay of doctors
    # Poor facilitiesâ"buildings in poor state of repair and mostly outdated.
    # Poor provision of equipment.
    # Frequent absence of essential drugs.
    # Concern regarding freedom of choice both for patient and doctor.
    But overall it is as good if not better than the US healthcare system. Sure measure stuff in waiting lines and America might look good, but measure any real factors, $ per head, life expectancy, etc and America is no better than many places and much worse than Europe.
  • by earthforce_1 ( 454968 ) <earthforce_1@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday May 03, 2008 @03:59PM (#23286036) Journal

    There was a funny incident in Canada, I think it was related to the Helms/Burton act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helms-Burton_Act [wikipedia.org] where the Canadian Wal-Mart stores were found to be selling Cuban made clothing, and the US government ordered them to stop. So they (briefly) stopped. Canadian newspapers found out and it was turned into a big sovereignty flap on this side of the border. The Canadian government then forbade any company operating on Canadian soil from obeying the embargo, and Wal-Mart's Cuban made clothing returned.

    Funny how little things get turned into a government p*ssing contest - wars have started over stupid crap like this.
  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @04:57PM (#23286358) Homepage

    You can legally burn as many as you want.
    Somebody should seriously start distributing joints under the GPL.
  • by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Saturday May 03, 2008 @05:15PM (#23286462)

    The Canadian government then forbade any company operating on Canadian soil from obeying the embargo

    The EU did pretty much the same thing, but it's sure to have frightened away some companies. Saudi Arabia makes Cuba look like a model free society, yet the oppressive regime there is supported by the US. The US stance against Cuba has nothing to do with freedom or democracy. Indeed the history of US policy in the region has been one of deterring democracy, not promoting it.

    The US wants cooperative governments that are friendly to US business interests. The current government of Venezuela fails both those tests, so despite being a democracy, the US is trying to undermine it and there was of course the coup attempt in 2002 as well. Such a coup attempt is far easier to organise in an open society like Venezuela than in Cuba, which is probably one of the reasons Cuba has been closed up so tight for so long.

    The US is also trying to undermine the current Bolivian government for much the same reason. The US government far preferred the previous business friendly regime, despite the massacres perpetrated against the Bolivian people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2008 @06:21PM (#23286788)
    It's not an apology, it's the truth. The world is far more complicated than you want to believe it to be.
  • by freyyr890 ( 1019088 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:28AM (#23288874) Homepage

    "Persian or Afghani" ? You mean indo-European ? Those are countries, not ethnic groups. You cannot recognize an Afghan from a Dutch, except for language and predisposition to blowing himself up (oh sorry it's called "religion")

    This kind of ignorance about Islam really sickens me. Have you even read the Qur'an? Or Islamic history? You can't take the actions of a few ultra-radical fundamentalists as a mark of the religion as a whole.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:32AM (#23290986) Journal
    No, it makes you inferior. It makes you mewling dependents who can't care for yourselves, like babies with nukes. It makes your desperate grasping for dominion understandable, in a pathetic sort of way. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it excusable, or sustainable. There is a lot of hardship and death in your future. Fortunately.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb