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Cellphones can be sent to Cuba

May 22, 2008|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday announced a loosening of U.S. restrictions that will allow Cuban Americans to send cellphones to family members in Cuba.

Speaking in the White House East Room in a celebration marking the first "Day of Solidarity With the Cuban People," Bush said it was up to the Cuban government to decide whether it would allow its citizens to receive the phones.

Administration officials argued that the relaxed restrictions on trade with the Cuban people did not represent a weakening of the long embargo on trade with Cuba.

The president's step, which Dan Fisk, a National Security Council specialist responsible for Latin American issues, said would take effect in several weeks, follows Cuban announcements that citizens there would be allowed to own cellphones and computers and that DVDs and toasters would be available in coming years.

The president argued for political change in the country as well, saying Cubans should be allowed to "speak freely in public" and "stop worrying about whether they have bread every day."

"If the Cuban regime is serious about improving the lives of the Cuban people," he said, it should take steps to "make the changes meaningful."

He also said it was the "height of hypocrisy to claim credit" for allowing the Cubans to have items "they can't afford."

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