Changes underway in Havana to grant Cubans more access to cellular phones, computers and other goods or services fall well short of allowing Cubans to freely express political views, the US State Department said Tuesday. ( dpa )
"Minimal," deputy spokesman Tom Casey said when asked to describe the relaxation of laws denying Cubans access to luxury goods reserved only for select party officials.
Raul Castro has introduced the changes since succeeding ailing brother Fidel in February. Cubans can now stay at high end hotels previously limited to high level officials or tourists. They will also be able to purchase cell phone service, computers and foreign electronic appliances.
"I'm sure that for those few Cubans who can afford to go to luxury hotels, this will be a nice thing," Casey said.
"The civil liberty changes that we're looking for is the ability of the Cuban people to freely express themselves without fear of being thrown in jail," Casey said.
The United States has refused to hold dialogue with Castro and has vowed to keep sanctions enacted in the 1960s in place until the island undergoes democratic reforms and holds free elections.