Cuban entrepreneurs reeling over crackdown on 3D movie theaters

Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:47am EST
 
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans are upset over decrees by the communist government shuttering private 3D movie theaters and banning the private sale of imported clothing in a land where venues to screen films are scarce and well-made, stylish clothing is hard to come by at affordable prices.

Discontent over the crackdown runs so deep that even Granma, the usually conformist Communist Party daily, ran a long article last week recognizing the "broad social debate" - an unmistakable sign of the government's sensitivity to the issue.

The newspaper backed the government's measures on the grounds the would-be entrepreneurs were unlicensed, and it insisted that the "non-state" sector, authorized over the past few years, must abide by the law.

Even so, urgent meetings to discuss the closures are being held at the highest levels of government on the Caribbean island, according to several cultural officials who asked not to be identified.

So far there is no indication the authorities will back down. Still, the very acknowledgement of the controversy highlights the growing pressure on the government for meaningful economic reform.

"The Cuban government misfired, not only by sidelining the interests of consumers, but also in underestimating the growing political clout of the emerging private entrepreneurs," said Richard Feinberg, a senior fellow of the Washington-based Brookings Institution and author of a recent study on "Emerging Entrepreneurs" in Cuba.

President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, has introduced a series of free-market reforms aimed at reducing the financially strapped state's enormous burden of running 80 percent of the economy.

The debate within the regime over how to deal with the discontent over the unlicensed businesses suggests deeper divisions still exist between orthodox bureaucrats and pro-market reformers.   Continued...

 
A woman walks past a private boutique set up at the entrance of a home in Havana November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan