HAVANA TIMES, Jan 11 — Several times a year the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) makes tempting offers to increase their number of cellphone subscribers.
Typically, this is at the end of the year, when they offer a phone card balance of 30 CUCs (about $33 USD) to whoever buys a line for that same amount.
When these offers are made, Cubans who want to (or who are able to) save up money for times like this can be seen in huge lines seeking to seize upon the opportunity.
This means of communication is well out of the reach of a large part of the population since it involves investing some 100 CUCs between the telephone itself, the appliance line and the initial balance (without counting the line maintenance, which costs a monthly minimum of 5 CUCs, which is 125 pesos or $5 USD.
A Venezuelan friend told me that in her country you can have the line and not put in money as long as you want. I don’t know if it works the same in other countries, but here, after you have paid your 30 CUCs, if you don’t pay 5 CUCs per month, you lose your line.
If Cuba were a country where throngs of people had lines and cellphones, it might be understandable, but it’s not like that here.
Moreover, for those who read this diary entry, the costs may appear cheap, but they’re not at all in relation to what the average Cuban earns.
As a result, of those people who have and use mobile lines, a miniscule number of them speak freely or for extended periods on their phones. Most people use them as little more than pagers, or to locate someone they’re looking for.
Only those few who make a lot of money or receive it from abroad, or senior military officers who use them at no cost, or hustlers, etc. can speak naturally using a cell phone.
In my case, I recently bought a phone, but I don’t have a line. I only take advantage of the versatility of the device — for taking pictures and things — because I can’t afford a camera, an iPod or a computer.