US Skirts Embargo to Open Lines

Tough Cuba is under a United States embargo, US-based Sprint Communications Co. has been allowed to provide the island nation with Internet access.

According to a Sprint spokesman, Larry McDonnell, Sprint is renting an oceanic telephone line to Cuba through its Global One network so that the newly established Cuban government Internet service provider, CENAI, can hook into Sprint's US network.

Before the Helms-Burton law came into effect last year, with its aim of limiting foreign investment in Cuba, Congress passed the Cuba Democracy Act in 1992.

The intent was to open up communications in hopes that a more-open Cuban society would follow. Because Helms-Burton disallows any US or foreign business from being done on expropriated soil in Cuba, Sprint's activities fall in murky waters.

The telephone system falls under the category of "expropriated," says Dan Fisk, a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who worked extensively on Helms-Burton.

But Mr. Fisk says because Helms-Burton does not negate the Cuban Democracy Act, Sprint's activities are not against US law. A joint venture with Cuba's national phone company would be.

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