Private Property in Cuba — Viva Raul!

A fellow I once knew, we no longer socialize, told me he owned a condo in Cuba. Somehow, he was able to do a deal and said he would connect me. I passed. First of all I was impecunious. Unpublished writers usually are broke. Hence, he invited me to go with him, he'd pay, and we would enjoy fine cigars at the private club in Havana. He said he knew Raul. I asked him if he was secretly a commie. The fellow replied no, Cuba would change. And perhaps he was right.

I have never travelled there and have no intention until Cuba is no longer a communist/socialist nation. As a matter of fact, I avoid buying Cuban cigars. However, if someone hands me good stogie, fine, I'll smoke it, but I spit after each puff: take that you communist bastards.

Fidel said communism doesn't work. We shall see how successful will be this new philosophy.

Cuba Legalizes Sale of Private Property - - David Luhnow

Cuba will allow citizens to buy and sell their homes for the first time in decades, the latest attempt by President Raúl Castro to patch up a crumbling economy after decades of communist rule under his older brother Fidel.

The change will apply only to Cuban citizens and residents and will limit people to one permanent residence and one holiday home, according to the state daily newspaper Granma, which announced the changes in a red banner headline on Thursday.

Ordinary Cubans lined up to buy the newspaper to read details of the changes, which were first approved in theory at a Communist Party congress in April.

For decades, Cubans could only swap their homes for an existing home of equal value, a complicated barter arrangement that often took years to carry out. In reality, many Cubans bought or sold homes in black-market deals, meaning there was no legal protection if the sale went sour.

Now, Cubans will be allowed to buy and sell legally starting on Nov. 10. Cubans can also inherit property from relatives without living in it first, something that was previously banned.

The changes could have a positive effect on Cuba's development. Economists have long noted that granting poor people the legal title gives them the pride and legal certainty to invest in their home and surrounding community and creates the possibility of using their home as collateral for loans.

The law will be a huge relief to thousands of Cubans. Residents often live years in overcrowded homes with several generations and even members of different families before they can move. Divorced couples often live together because there was nowhere else to go.

With the government the only authorized builder of homes, the country's housing stock has been deficient in quantity and quality. The new law is unlikely to change that, as the government remains the sole builder of homes.

Buyers and sellers will have to split an 8% tax on the assessed value of the homes, an attempt by the cash-strapped government to make some extra revenue, analysts say.

Since taking over from his ailing older brother in 2008, Raúl Castro has attempted a set of modest reforms. Last year, the government said it would shed half a million government workers to slim down a bloated bureaucracy and allow citizens to employ themselves in a limited number of jobs. That plan has so far only been partly carried out, analysts say.

The changes are a far cry from former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's call to the Chinese that "to be rich is glorious." Cuba's regime is still deeply wary of wealth accumulation, analyst say. The housing reform, for instance, limits the number of properties people can own.

"The impact is very limited," said Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami. "There are not many people who have money to buy houses, and there are not a lot of houses to buy."

Mr. Suchlicki said the move would benefit mostly white Cubans whose relatives comprise the majority of the country's exiles in the U.S. who may be able to send them money with which to buy a property. "This will deepen division between blacks and whites in Cuba," he said.

—José de Córdoba contributed to this article.