This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Friday March 28
2008. It was last updated at 15:21 on March 28 2008.
The Cuban president, Raúl Castro, today lifted restrictions on ownership
of mobile phones.
Castro's move was another indication that he is prepared to grant more
freedom to the island's residents.
The right to own mobile phones had been restricted to the employees of
foreign firms or those holding key posts in the communist-run state.
Some Cubans had evaded the ban by asking foreigners to sign contracts in
their names, but mobile phones remain relatively uncommon in Cuba
compared with the rest of the world.
Castro - who formally assumed power from his brother, Fidel, in February
– promised in his inaugural speech to ease some of the restrictions on
daily life within weeks.
He pledged "structural changes" and "big decisions" in the near future.
An internal memo, leaked to Reuters earlier this month, suggested Castro
intended to lift restrictions on the ownership of electrical appliances
including DVD players and computers, although no mention was made of
Last week, the Cuban government lifted its ban on farmers buying their
own supplies in an attempt to improve agricultural production.
All supplies had been previously been assigned by the central
government, but small-scale farmers on some parts of the island are now
permitted to buy such items as seeds, fertiliser and clothing equipment
from state stores.
Such changes have been viewed as evidence that Castro is prepared to
make concessions to residents, albeit in the context of a one-party state.
Days after Castro was sworn in as president, Cuba signed two
legally-binding human rights agreements, forming part of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, at the UN in New York.
He has also held talks with the Vatican's leading diplomat, Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, who is seen as a potential emissary between the US and