Since Fidel Castro left his seat of power to his brother Raul there have been many changes in Cuba. Some say that there haven’t been nearly enough, and many say that, even with the changes, life is still very bleak for the average Cuban. They cite the poverty, the minimum wage that makes it hard to survive, and the fact that freedom of expression still hardly exists. It’s a fact however that the status quo is shifting, as seen in the recent changes to the laws forbidding the sale or purchase of real estate in Cuba.
You see, since the early days of the revolution in Cuba it has been illegal to buy, sell and, in some cases, even own real estate. President Raul Castro recently changed that, and for the first time in nearly four4 decades Cubans have been allowed to sell their family owned real estate or purchase new real estate. The profit that they make is even theirs to keep, albeit with a stiff sales tax attached.
The new laws are for Cuban citizens and permanent residents only, and took effect last year in November of 2011. It has limits, to be sure, including that no family may own more than one city home and one country home. Even with this new freedom the Cuban government still wants to prevent anyone from accumulating a large portfolio of real estate assets. All the transactions are required to be made through Cuban banks, and will be charged bank commissions.
Nevertheless it’s a big step forward for personal freedoms in a country that has been repressed for nearly half a century. Buying and selling anything as large as a home was limited to the very elite of Cuba until now, and the fact is that the average Cuban doesn’t even own one home, let alone two. Still, it offers Cubans a chance to have and accumulate wealth, as their home can be made ‘liquid’ if needed in an emergency.
It’s a start, but many more changes are needed if Cuba wishes to gain true freedom and equality among the classes. But for now being able to buy and sell real estate will have to do.