Cuba is now allowing individual imports of appliances, lifting a ban imposed in 2005 after a wave of energy shortages and blackouts, reports the AP. As a result, Cubans are now able to bring up to two appliances per person into the island for noncommercial use. The list of approved items now include air conditioners with a capacity of less than 1 ton, microwaves under 2,000 watts and ovens that consume less than 1,500 watts.
After Soviet trade began to decrease in the 1980s and practically disappeared in the 1990s, Cuba entered an economic crisis that has continued up to present day. Soviet oil had accounted for an estimated 90 percent of Cuban energy needs. Conditions worsened after the U.S. embargo strengthened regulations and oil prices in the global market continued to rise.
During the período especial (special period) the Cuban government introduced new rationing arrangements to meet the worsening economic crisis. As a result, supplies of gasoline, fuel oil, and food were severely cut. Blackouts are not as common today due to Cuba’s relationship with Venezuela, which provides a steady flow of oil to the country.
Although Cubans will now have more access to purchasing and selling appliances, many still won’t be able to afford the products. In an Old Havana shop, a Hamilton Beach sandwich maker that lists for $29.99 on the company's website goes for $94.40. “Prices for those products in Cuba are very high. Nobody has enough to buy something like that," said Maria Rosas, 42.
The office worker makes a salary of about $12.50 a month. “I see things like a blender, a sandwich maker or one of those steam irons, and I'd like to have them, but I can't afford to,” she added.
In order to keep Cuba’s power grid from being over taxed, authorities continue stressing the importance of conserving energy in the island.