By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
HAVANA, Cuba – This past week, Raul Castro enacted legislation that allows residents to buy and sell property for the first time in nearly 50 years. However, do not assume Castro’s new policy is to create a better life for his people. The Cuban government wants to rejuvenate its economic system, not promote the basic property rights of the citizens.
Cubans have lived under harsh oppression for half a century. Historically, according to BBC News, parents were able to pass property on to their children, but buying and selling property was not allowed. The new law, which took effect on November 10, allows Cubans to own a maximum of two properties and to freely buy and sell properties. Additionally, back in October, the Cuban government passed legislation that allowed Cubans to purchase and sell vehicles, although it is still heavily regulated.
Previously, Cubans lived in overcrowded apartment buildings due to a severe housing shortage, reported BBC News. Cubans could not legally buy or sell properties, but could merely swap them with each other through very informal processes, according to Salon.com.
While the Cuban government is seeking to overcome economic depression, many are still dismayed by the fact that there are severe restrictions on movement and the lack of a democratic process, specifically a lack of political opponents.
The New York Times calls this new legislation “a major break from decades of socialist housing.” According to Salon.com, the Cuban citizens appreciate the change, even if it is not for human rights reasons.
Many people are skeptical of Castro’s economic policies over the last year. His allowance of private enterprise is welcomed, but it has not generated any results as of yet, at least economically. Castro reiterated the fact that the new law is not designed to promote any kind of accession to wealth, according to The Miami Herald.
The new law allows families to relocate to a bigger or smaller property as is necessary. However, it is still difficult to manage. The Miami Herald reports that there are still so many restrictions, and such a housing shortage, that it will be difficult for people to find the place they need. Cubans are skeptical because corruption is obviously still rampant, and the residents foresee many title issues in the future.
Many hope that this is just the first step of many in promoting human rights and better treatment of Cuban citizens.
For more information, please visit:
Associated Press — Amid Economic Reforms, Cuba Goes After Corruption — 20 Nov. 2011
PolicyMic.com – Cuba Needs to Focus on Human Rights More than Economic Freedoms — 20 Nov. 2011
The Miami Herald — Cuba’s Housing Reform Draws Praise, Doubts — 20 Nov. 2011
Salon.com — Cuba’s Private Property Revolution — 19 Nov. 2011
BBC News — Cuba Passes Law Allowing Private Home Sales — 3 Nov. 2011