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Private Property Returns to Cuba

Private Property Returns to Cuba
06/03/2016 04:39 pm ET
Miriam Leiva

Private property will no longer be considered a capitalist disease,
according to a draft document published by the ruling Communist Party to
be ratified in 2017. In the Fundamental Law of the Republic, enacted a
month after seizing power in January 1959, the revolutionary government
recognized the existence and legitimacy of private property, but the
Constitution of 1976 states that the economic system is based on the
socialist property of all the people.

The Constitution will be amended to legalize ’s sluggish
measures, intended to deal with the economic crisis, and to establish
the rules for the heirs of the historic leadership, before stepping down
from State and Minister Councils in 2018. Private property will be
recognized as a complement to socialist property, but an opening to
individual Cubans (cuentapropistas) to increase their businesses is
dubious. The government seems to favor the Non Agricultural
Cooperatives. Yet the advantage of demonstrating an updated legal
environment in the path to end the American , and guaranties to
foreigners and Cuban-Americans already investing through relatives and
friends, probably were incentives to ’s forgetfulness and
Raul Castro’s pragmatism.

Private property returning to Cuba became international news since the
draft of the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of
Socialist Development was published on May 24th. But earlier in April,
on his report to the VII Communist Party Congress, Raul Castro had
mentioned the reluctance of some delegates to recognize the existence of
private property, fearing that it would be the first steps toward
restoring capitalism in Cuba; the increase of cuentapropistas and their
hiring of personnel had let to medium, small and micro enterprises,
functioning under the legislation for an individual and his family; and
limits to their property and richness would remain.

Currently there are 507,342 cuentapropistas. Self-employment in 117
activities, not comprising graduates, was permitted in 1993,
as a result of the economic meltdown caused by the fall of the Soviet
bloc, and in 1995 surpassed 200,000 individuals. By 2000 they had
decreased to 100,000, in the process of reverting the squalid economic
opening, that had been reluctantly allowed by Fidel Castro, as soon as
the huge assistance from Chavez started. In 2006, Raul Castro inherited
an isolated country with an economic chaos, clinging to a shaky
. Two years later the began his reforms. In 2010,
cuentapropistas expanded to 178 occupations, and family businesses could
hire some workers, although laws, inspections and taxes prevented their
growth. The original aim was that self-employment would relieve the
government from 1.3 million unproductive employees, but fears that
economic independent people would demand political rights led to a halt.

Tight government control had to be assured, so Non Agricultural
Cooperatives were devised. Thousands of State-owned barbershops, beauty
parlors, repair shops, and cafeterias were handed over to
their workers as cooperatives. They had no choice: either they accepted
or lost their jobs within a month. That was the solution to unprofitable
small businesses taken from their owners through the Socialist Offensive
in 1968 (when private property was backed by the Fundamental Law), not
firing thousands of workers, improving services and raising wages.

Moreover, fancy restaurants (paladares) and cafeterias, bakeries, ice
cream parlors, houses and apartments for rent, beauty parlors, gyms, art
galleries, music and theater halls, and high-quality flower, fruit and
vegetable growers flourished. It is well known that Cubans on the island
do not have the economic means for such investments. Cuban-Americans and
foreigners actually own them with the quiet acceptance of the
government. For a long time, economists, such as ,
advised to stimulate their investments following and Viet Nam
experiences, and officials disdainfully answered that Cuba was neither
of them.

The Communist Party in the draft strongly reiterated that the defense
and security of the revolution continues to be the main task, and it
created a new concept: socialist civil society; the so called NGOs, such
as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. Independent civil
society is labeled as an enemy led and paid by the United States and
repressed. Isolation of Cubans with different opinions from visitors,
especially entrepreneurs and those arriving in the framework of
president Obama’s people to people policy, is a principal aim.

Hopefully private property will be recognized beyond the communist
party’s papers. Cubans living on the island have been discriminated
against, while the New Investment Law is only for foreigners. The
legislation must not only refer to medium, small and micro enterprises.
Raul Castro promised to work hard drafting the new Constitution. In
fact, it must be very clear and comprehensive with actual respect and
rights for all.

Miriam Leiva


Havana, June 1st, 2016

Source: Private Property Returns to Cuba –

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