This just in from the Commerce Department:
U.S. Department of Commerce Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20230 www.commerce.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2008
CONTACT: Rich Mills/Ann Marie Hauser
COMMERCE DEPARTMENT REVISES REGULATIONS PERMITTING SHIPMENT OF CELL PHONES TO CUBA
WASHINGTON – U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez has announced that the department has updated its regulations to allow Americans to send cell phones and related accessories to family members in Cuba. The change was announced by the President in a speech on May 21, 2008 commemorating Cuba Solidarity Day, and will take effect on June 13, 2008 (Federal Register Notice).
“While the Cuban regime continues to brutally repress its people, it is touting recent reforms as signs of change. Letting Cubans have toasters isn’t real change,” Gutierrez said. “Nevertheless, in light of Cuba allowing cell phones, as the President said, the U.S. will now allow Americans to send cell phones to relatives in Cuba. Let’s see if the Castro regime is serious about allowing the Cuban people to communicate more freely.”
Under existing licensing authorities, eligible family members may send certain items to Cuba in a monthly gift parcel. This rule change expands the list of items that can be sent to include cellular phones, and increases the dollar value limit to $400, enabling shipments of cellular phone without reducing the quantity of other humanitarian items.
It permits U.S. family members to send gift parcels through businesses currently licensed by the Department of Commerce. These gift parcel consolidators do not require a new license. Eligible family members may also take cellular phones and related accessories to Cuba under licenses issued by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Further information on the President’s announcement can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/05/20080521.html.
Background: The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) controls exports and re-exports to Cuba under its Export Administration Regulations. On March 28, 2008, the Cuban government announced it would authorize Cuba’s state-owned telephone offices to begin selling cellular phone services to the general public, and permitted Cubans to freely purchase and use phones, or to register illegally owned phones.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez Co-Chairs with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a U.S. Cabinet-level Commission formed to explore ways the U.S. can help hasten and ease a democratic transition in Cuba.