Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Small Businesses Sprout Out Of Front Yards In Cuba
by Nick Miroff
July 6, 2011

Fidel Castro nationalized Cuba's small businesses in 1968, closing
thousands of family-owned shops, down to the tiniest fruit stand. His
brother Raul is starting to undo that bitter legacy, giving out more
than 300,000 new self-employment licenses in the past eight months.

The entrepreneurs are now filling Havana's sidewalks and street corners;
the next step may be moving them back into shops that were seized long ago.

Urban Marketplaces Popping Up

On the front patio of an elegant 1940s home in Havana's Miramar
neighborhood, Cuba's new economy is on full display — it includes
secondhand blouses, cheap shoes and a giant rack of pirated CDs.
Ivelis Ramos (right) was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper
last year and now runs a makeshift store in Havana's Miramar
neighborhood. Restrictions on privately owned businesses are beginning
to relax under Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother.
Enlarge Nick Miroff for NPR

Ivelis Ramos (right) was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper
last year and now runs a makeshift store in Havana's Miramar
neighborhood. Restrictions on privately owned businesses are beginning
to relax under Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother.

One makeshift store and its booming stereo belong to 26-year-old Ivelis
Ramos, who was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper last year.

"I didn't used to have this freedom to relax, to dance and to talk to
customers," Ramos says. "Someday I'd like to have a real store of my own."

Ramos is one of several vendors along the sidewalk who have tarps and
tattered patio umbrellas to shield them from the brutal tropical sun. It
looks like the kind of urban marketplace common to other Latin American
capitals, but not Communist-run Cuba.

The front yards and doorways of Havana's once-graceful boulevards are
starting to resemble outdoor flea markets, while much of the commercial
property owned by the state remains vacant or underutilized.

Government Sending Mixed Signals

"It's very important to understand that the city of Havana was there
when the revolution arrived," says Miguel Coyula, an architect and urban
planner in Havana. "So the revolution tried to introduce a new social
model, but in the existing city. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't."

Coyula says that when the small businesses were nationalized, much of
Havana's commercial space was converted to housing. Now, many homes are
doubling as businesses as Cubans set up restaurants and workshops in
their living rooms, or rent their yards out as retail space.

Other vendors wander through parks and neighborhoods — even hospitals
and government stores — drawing complaints. The state says it will lease
commercial space to the new entrepreneurs, but their businesses are so
small it's not clear how they'd fill it.

Shoe repairman Rene Martinez counts out receipts showing what he pays
the government to set up a stall in a vacant parking lot near a Havana
supermarket. The state charges him about $1 a day, but offers little in
return beyond a bare patch of asphalt outside a ruined 1950s-era diner
with weeds sprouting from the roof. Some of his fellow vendors have
talked about banding together and refusing to pay the daily fee.
Martinez says he took home less than 30 cents the day before.

"I thought working here would help me relax, but instead I'm all
agitated because of these taxes," Martinez says.

Such are the mixed signals coming from the Cuban government, which seems
unsure whether to help the entrepreneurs or regulate them to death. It
has limited the range of occupations that self-employed Cubans can
perform legally, but it has also encouraged hiring by waiving payroll
taxes for business with up to five employees.

Loans and microcredits from state banks are supposedly coming next, and
little homemade fliers are starting to appear on doormats and car
windshields — the first signs of advertising.

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/06/137652094/small-businesses-sprout-out-of-front-yards-in-cuba?ft=1&f=1004


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