The Cuban government is making international calls between the island and the United States less costly by repealing a decree signed by ex-President Fidel Castro in the year 2000 that established a 10-percent surcharge on calls between the two countries.

"The cost of calls between the United States and Cuba will be reduced," said a communique issued this Friday by the International Press Center, an agency of the island's Foreign Ministry, according to which the government's decision "will benefit communications between the Cuban population and emigrants."

The law decreed in 2000 established a surcharge of 10 percent on the basic per-minute rate for each international telephone call between the United States and Cuba, including those made through third countries.

That law was interpreted as Havana's response to an act of the U.S. Congress permitting the use of Cuban funds frozen in the U.S. to be used to compensate the families of three anti-Castro pilots whose light planes were shot down in 1996 by fighters from the island.

The 2000 law said that the collection of the surcharge on calls would remain in effect "until the sum total of Cuban funds illegally frozen in the United States is returned with the corresponding interest."

With the new measure announced this Friday, the government of President Raul Castro appears to add another gesture to his policy of normalizing relations between the island and Cubans living overseas, whose largest community is in the United States. EFE