HAVANA – Making calls on your cell phone can be expensive in Cuba. A new state-run program is making it cheaper to communicate, but there's a catch.
When Cubans use their cell phone, they are charged by the minute. They pay 35 cents. This means a 10 minute phone call comes out to $3.50. With an average monthly salary of $24, Cubans struggle to keep up with their phone accounts.
The state run telecommunications company is starting a program they call the "friend's plan." Users can choose three phone numbers that can be either cell or land lines and when they call those numbers they are charged 20 cents per minute instead of 35 cents.
While referring to the 10 cent discount on the cost of calling only three phone numbers, Claudia Fernandez said "algo es algo," Spanish for "something is better than nothing."
Fernandez said she would prefer if the rate was lowered. Emilio Cortes would prefer if he could get a discount on more than three phone numbers. Idelsy Davis is grateful for the financial relief, but said that even with the discount most Cubans are still at a disadvantage. That is unless they have relatives abroad who can help.
To cope with the high cost, Cubans use different techniques. Avoiding courtesies and greetings and getting right to the point with a simple message saves money. Without a good bye or a pleasantry, Cubans quickly hang up after a concise message.
Some Cubans will call and hang up. The message to the receiver of the call is that they wish to talk and would prefer a call back to avoid carrying the weight of an expense that they can't afford.