Cuba shutters private theatres, threatens other businesses

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba closed dozens of home-based movie theatres yesterday and reaffirmed its plans to end the private sale of imported goods as communist authorities pressed for “order, discipline and obedience” in the growing small business sector.

A government statement issued through official media said home-based theatres and video games will “stop immediately in any type of self-employment,” a local euphemism for small business.

The statement said “the showing of movies, including in 3D salons, and likewise the organisation of computer games, has never been authorised.”

The government banned the private sale of imported goods last month, a measure that potentially affects some 20,000 small businesses and their employees who sell clothing, hardware and other goods brought in informally by travellers, some of whom visit the Caribbean island regularly carrying merchandise from the United States, Spain and Latin American countries.

President Raul Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel in 2008, has instituted a series of market-oriented reforms to Cuba’s Soviet style economy where the state still employs 79 per cent of the 5 million-strong labour force.

“These measures are corrections to continue bringing order to this form of management, fight impunity and insist people live up to the law,” the government said yesterday. “In no way does this mean a step backward. Quite the contrary, we will continue to decidedly advance in the updating of our economic model,” it said, adding that would only be possible “in an atmosphere of order, discipline and obedience.”

The import ban has created a fury among entrepreneurs and the public who have tired of buying high priced and low quality clothing from state-run establishments.

Yesterday’s closing of private theatres will add fuel to the fire as they have been overwhelmingly welcomed by the public.

Marlene, a Havana housewife, said her neighbour was planning to open a 3D salon.

“The state has no 3D theatres, so what is their problem. Sometimes the government seems to want to make our lives worse for the fun of it,” she said, asking her last name not be used.

Cuban economist Juan Triana, in his regular Thursday commentary on state-run Radio Taino, said that the government should get out of businesses it had no reason to be in, referring to the ban on imports.

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