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Cuba lifts ban on computer sales

Toasters still an enemy of the working class until 2010

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Cuban president Raul Castro has lifted the country's ban on the sale of petit bourgeois merchandise like computers, DVDs, video players and other consumer electronics goods.

So ends years of technological prohibition placed under the regime of his brother Fidel Castro, which had classified the electronic devices and appliances as wasteful.

"Based on the improved availability of electricity the government at the highest level has approved the sale of some equipment which was prohibited," reads an alleged internal government memo obtained by Reuters.

The memo catalogs PCs, video players, 19-inch and 20-inch television sets, electric pressure cookers, rice cookers, microwaves, car alarms and other electronics merchandise as now freely available on the market, according to the news service.

For years, government-run electronics stores have controlled what products could be sold to Cuban citizens. The legal purchase of a personal computer was often only authorized — and within the financial means — of foreigners and diplomats.

Cuba has a reputedly thriving black market of electronics and access to an unrestricted internet for tech-craving citizens willing to take the risk.

However, since Fidel Castro provisionally handed his brother leadership in July 2006, some restrictions necessitating the underground have been relaxed. Last year, customs regulations were eased on some import desktop computers and car parts.

"The country's priority will be to meet the basic needs of the population, both material and spiritual," Raul Castro said when he took office.

Cuba's proles must wait until next year before they can buy air conditioners, however. The dark influence of toasters won't be seen until 2010 — allegedly due to limited power supplies.

Access to the internet remains government-controlled. Surely they could make an exception for El Reg? Power to the people, and all that? ®

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