HAVANA — Cuba said Friday that it will cut most direct telephone service to the United States beginning next week because U.S. telephone companies have failed to pay a new tax imposed by the Communist government.
The Cuban phone company, Etecsa, will cut service Friday, following up on a decision by Cuba's Council of Ministers, the government's Cabinet, according to an announcement in the Communist Party daily Granma.
Cuba has cut direct telephone service to the United States before, routing calls through third countries. Once a cut is made, service is disrupted for a day or so until the new routing is in place. One cut in direct service in February 1999 lasted more than a year.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker called the step "disappointing" and expressed hope that the Cuban government would reconsider.
Cuba in October announced a new tax of 10% on the basic, per-minute long distance rate for U.S.-Cuba calls made using American phone companies.
The tax was imposed to protest a U.S. law that makes it easier for relatives of three Cuban Americans shot down by Cuban fighter jets off the island's coast in 1996 to collect on court-ordered sanctions against Havana.