Vodka Ain't Good for Cuba Libre
Communications with Paradise
There is a strict censorship imposed by the tyranny in all communications with and from Cuba. It began in the early sixties. Phone calls were systematically listened to and recorded in most cases. Letters were opened, read and resealed using clumsy Soviet machines (what else). A friend of ours learned the hard way early in the early sixties that the phones were tapped. He was talking on the phone one day with his parents. His mother told him that a very dear cousin, who was still in Cuba, was about to begin attending the University. His career of choice was Veterinary. When she said that he retorted: “That’s great. That way he can “cure the Horse” (remember what the tyrant was called back then). There was a quick click sound and the line went dead. They were listening to the conversation and punished him/his family for making that remark about the tyrant.
Phone calls to the island are frustrating, to say the least. They are also very expensive. We are not sure how the rates are set but they are never the same. Sometimes you pay 75 cents a minute, which maybe considered normal and fair. However, in many occasions you make a call and when the phone company statement arrives a very unpleasant surprise awaits you. You are charged for more minutes than you used and the rate could be up to $US5.00 per minute. We have seen bills coming in for up to $200.00 for about 20 minutes calls. Some calls have been even higher. The explanation by the phone company is that they have no control over the rates, etc. It is not unusual that you have to keep dialing during several days trying to connect.
Letters from the USA to the island take a month each way. In that period of time you could have exchanged correspondence with Japan or Australia at least three times. They say that the reason for the delay is no direct mail service between Cuba and the USA. That maybe true to a point. One factor to consider is the censorship that has been in place for over forty years. They have to open all the mail, read it and reseal it before sending it through. Another factor is that they may decide, for whatever reason or no reason at all, that the mail is going to sit there for a while before processing it.
The main reason is to inconvenience and harass the Cuban exile community. Besides exacting as many dollars as they can to let you visit your relatives in the island and to communicate with them, the tyranny ads insult to injury by making it very hard to visit or communicate with the people in Cuba. It is part of the psychological warfare. The people there are pawns that they use anyway they want to. The tyranny knows that almost all the exiles suffer the separation, knowing that their relatives are living under extreme hardship and that they will do everything they can to see them, to communicate with them and to help them. They exploit that natural human behavior to a maximum practicing extortion and psychological blackmail.
Shipping food and medicines to Cuba from the USA is another frustrating and expensive proposition. Shipments of medicines and health related products, including prescription and over the counter drugs, may cost $US11.00 to $US12.00 per pound. Shipping anything else, soap, clothing, shoes, etc., not considered food or medicines, could cost between $US14.00 and $15.00 per pound. Shipments may take from 10 to 30 days to arrive to the recipient. There maybe “duties, etc.” levied by the tyranny upon arrival of the shipment. A percentage of the shipping costs go to the tyranny. As we said before, the worse embargo is the one imposed by the tyranny on the people of Cuba. And of you send a whell chair, crutches, et al, the “import duties” are levied here in the USA at outrageous figures and you have to pay before you ship the items.
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