Cuba takes one small step in consumer revolution

COMMUNIST Cuba has authorised the unrestricted sale of computers and DVD and video players in the first sign that the new president, Raul Castro, is moving to improve his people's access to consumer goods.

The government said electrical devices could go on sale immediately, although air conditioners will not be available until next year and toasters until 2010 due to limited power supplies.

Only foreigners and companies can buy computers in Cuba at present, while DVD players were seized at the airport until last year, when customs rules were eased.

Now Cubans will be able to buy them freely, paying for them in convertible pesos, which are worth 24 times more than the Cuban pesos that state wages are paid in.

While Cubans will be able to buy computers, access to the internet remains controlled by the government.

Many on the island now think the state will soon allow them to buy mobile phones.

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