Communist Cuba opens up to private homeownership

Cuban President Fidel Castro takes part in a political rally in Holguin, Cuba on July 26, 2006.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: For the first time in more than 40 years, Cuba's Communist Party leadership doesn't officially include Fidel Castro. But his brother, Raul, was named First Secretary. And the party made some other changes too. Like Cubans can now buy and sell homes for the first time in half a century.

From Havana, here's the BBC's Michael Voss.


MICHAEL VOSS: It's not that Cubans didn't own their homes before. They did. But all the property title did was allow Cubans to pass the homes on to their children -- or trade homes in a swap system.

The problem was, no money was allowed to change hands. It left the system open to bribery and corruption.

And many Cubans are skeptical of the pace of economic reform, like Juan Antonio Diego Hernandez, who's 47 and out of work.

JUAN ANTONIO DIEGO HERNANDEZ: In the year 2000 when all of this was being discussed, everyone thought, now we are going to see some results. But 10 years have passed and we still have no results, we are worse off than before.

So far there are no exact details of how the home sales will work. But some reforms are underway -- Cubans can now start small businesses.

In Havana, I'm the BBC's Michael Voss, for Marketplace.

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