Making It Legal: Cuba's Entrepreneurs Get Some R-E-S-P-E-T-O

May 24, 2016

Last month we thought Cuba’s communist hardliners had put the brakes on growing the island’s private sector. But you never know with Cuba.

Today Havana issued a hopeful reform that Cuba’s half a million fledgling entrepreneurs – or cuentapropistas – have long waited for. The island’s communist government announced that small private businesses may now become genuine legal entities.

Before, those enterprises were considered only means of “self-employment.” They enjoyed little if any legal recognition or protection. The reform raises both private businesses and their owners to a stronger status in Cuba.

It was somewhat unexpected. At Cuba’s Communist Party Congress last month, it looked like the old conservatives were grabbing the revolution’s steering wheel again. Many of them were angered by President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the island in March – when he publicly challenged Cuba’s leaders to adopt more democratic and economic reforms.

So at the congress they seemed to block policy changes that might expand private enterprise – despite President Raúl Castro’s warning that Cuba’s threadbare economy is stuck in what he called an “obsolete mentality.”

But the hardliner wrath seems to have given way to economic reality.