New entrepreneurs on the rise in socialist Cuba

Tue May 24, 2011 3:06pm EDT
 
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - The salvation of socialism in Cuba is taking some odd turns, with words like "competition," "marketing" and "opportunity" being heard for the first time in decades on the communist-led island.

Under reforms by President Raul Castro, a new entrepreneurial class is developing and with it some new ways of thinking in a country that has long resisted economic change.

The government reported recently that 310,000 Cubans are working legally for themselves, of whom 221,000 have received their licenses for self-employment since last fall, when Castro announced an expansion of the private sector.

The move was part of a broad package of reforms to modernize Cuba's sluggish Soviet-style economy with the goal of saving socialism, installed after the country's 1959 revolution, for future generations.

U.S. President Barack Obama recently dismissed the changes as too small, but on the island 90 miles from the United States many Cubans welcome them and believe they are just the first of many to come.

The reforms are "an opportunity for Cubans, they are a start," said Giselle Nicolas at her new paladar, or private restaurant, La Galeria in Havana's Vedado district.

"I think Cuba is already changing for the better," she said.

In Havana and elsewhere, there is no question the economic landscape is changing.   Continued...

 
<p>A private-licensed barber cuts a boy's hair in Havana May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>