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Cablegate: Direct Mail Within Cuba - You Get What You Pay For

VZCZCXRO6383
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHGR RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT
RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHUB #0566/01 2581949
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151949Z SEP 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4765
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEKJCE/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HAVANA 000566

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA, IO/T-DENNIS DELEHANTY, AND L/EMP-DAVID
HUITEMA
PASS TO USPS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECPS EINT ECON CU
SUBJECT: DIRECT MAIL WITHIN CUBA - YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

1. (U) SUMMARY: A regular postage stamp to mail a letter
within Cuba costs less than one penny. As you would expect,
however, you get what you pay for. Domestic service is
inconsistent, unreliable, much delayed, and, therefore,
hardly used by most Cubans. Sending packages and
international service is even worse. Post offices are
predominately used to pay utility bills, cash pension and
social assistance checks, use the public telephone, and, when
available, access email. The Government of Cuba's (GOC)
decision on June 29 (recently made public) to authorize Cuban
post offices to provide Internet access is welcome news, even
if it has not yet taken effect. END SUMMARY

------------
Mail in Cuba
------------

2. (U) Cuba has 1,044 post offices in the entire country
(about 1 for every 11,000 people). Post offices provide some
or all of the following services: sell stamps, certify
letters, send telegrams, cash pension and social assistance
checks, receive payments for telephone, electricity, and
other utility bills, sell school supplies and post cards, and
house a public telephone. There is usually only one post
office per province that can ship and/or receive large
packages. According to official statistics, Cuba processed a
total of 10,663,900 mail units (letters, small packages,
etc.) domestically and internationally in 2008; less than one
unit per person per year. In addition, Cubans sent another
2.8 million telegrams through the postal system. The only
invoice delivered to residences through the mail is for the
telephone. However, one can not pay any bills, including for
the telephone, through the mail. All bills have to be paid
in person either at the post office or directly to the
specific collector (the water company, electric company,
phone company, etc.)

3. (U) The cost of sending a regular letter anywhere within
Cuba is 15 to 20 centavos moneda nacional (Cuban
non-convertible pesos), which is less than one U.S. cent
(NOTE: this is still roughly four times more expensive than
a first class stamp in the United States when factoring in
average salaries. END NOTE) To send a certified letter
within Cuba costs just under five cents (USD). Letters
mailed to the United States or Europe cost either three cents
(regular) or seven cents (certified). Domestic packages
range from five cents to nine cents per kilogram.
International packages to the United States or Europe cost
between 35 cents and $1.43 per kilogram. The maximum weight
for packages bound for the United States is two kilograms.
All prices are paid in moneda nacional and include
certification and custom procedures for packages. Anyone who
can afford to pay in convertible currency can send small
packages and correspondence via an international courier,
such as DHL or EMS. These services are much more expensive
and reliable.

--------------------------------------------
The Internet: If You Can't Beat It, Join It
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) Average mail usage fell 30 percent from the period
1999-2004 (15,577,150 units per year) to 2005-2008
(11,211,230). One of the reasons officially acknowledged has
been poor service. The official media has printed on several
occasions the problems prevailing in the postal service, as
compared with the relative improvements in the other areas of
the communications sector (more fixed lines, the introduction
of mobile phones, and broader email and internet service).
Among the cited shortcomings are: instability due to staff
shortages and turnover; postal crimes, including theft and
robbery of packages; and the inappropriate use of state funds
and poor accounting practices. Delays are common for both
letters and packages. Anecdotal evidence suggests that
packages could take anywhere from seven days to 45 days to
reach another province within Cuba. International mail and
packages take even longer. (NOTE: The Chief of Mission
mailed himself a postcard from Europe in May 2009 and it is

HAVANA 00000566 002 OF 002


yet to arrive at U.S. Interests Section in Cuba. END NOTE)

5. (U) Another likely reason for the drop in services is
increased access to email, the Cuban Intranet, and, for some,
the Internet. Domestic and international email services have
become more available both at public outlets and at state
companies and institutions. According to official
statistics, 43 post offices provide access to email and/or
Cuba's intranet, including 7-10 facilities in Havana. The
rate for using the Intranet and email services (domestic and
international using a .cu domain name) is $1.62 (CUC 1.50)
per hour. This is much cheaper than the tourist Internet
cafes and hotels ($5 to 12 per hour), but still prohibitively
expensive for most Cubans taking home less than one dollar
per day.

6. (SBU) In early September, the Cuban Government published
in its Official Gazette a June 29 decision authorizing the
Cuban Post Office as a Public Internet Service Provider,
"which it will make available to private individuals in the
national territory through its Internet areas." To our
knowledge, no post office has started to offer Internet
services beyond the previous access to email and the Cuban
intranet. There is also no indication that the new
permission will extend to any more than the 43 post offices
that currently offer limited services.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Allowing Internet access at post offices is
consistent with some of the GOC's previous measures
(permitting the sale of mobile phones and computers, access
to tourist facilities, etc.) to formally remove major
irritants to the Cuban people, collect a bit of revenue, and
appear more open to the rest of the world. The GOC already
offers heavily restricted but free access to the Internet at
the 611 Youth Computer Clubs open around the country. Since
Cubans who could afford it already had access to the (mostly)
open Internet at tourist hotels where the Cuban Government
splits the revenue with foreign joint ventures, this recent
step simply extends that access to a few more locations with
the revenue flowing directly into the Government's pockets.
As the United States and Cuba prepare to sit down this week
to discuss how to get mail directly from one country to the
next, the Cuban Government still has a long way to go to
ensure that those letters and packages will then make their
way to the intended recipients within the island in a timely
and secure fashion.
FARRAR

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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