Interim leader Raul Castro has unveiled arguably the most significant economic reform since taking the helm in communist Cuba, announcing that in some cases aircraft can be privately owned.
It is major news in a country that depends heavily on tourism to generate hard currency, though the announcement Thursday raised many questions without immediately delivering many answers.
Raul Castro, 76, the defense chief who took over July 31, 2006 when his brother Fidel Castro, now 81, stepped aside to undergo major intestinal surgery, is seen as a pragmatist, interested in Chinese and Vietnamese economic models.
The interim leader has changed some regulations by decree, changing customs duties payment rules and easing the importation of computers, videos and spare car parts.
But Thursday’s announcement in the government’s official gazette, almost a year and a half into his period of leadership, was the furthest-reaching to date, touted by the government as a move in the interest of Cuba’s economic growth.
“Aircraft ... are state-owned, socialist property of all the people. But their ownership can be transferred, in part or whole, in exceptional cases, to individuals or legal entities,” said the decree.
The announcement did not immediately make clear whether those potentially benefiting from the change would be Cuban individuals and entities, foreign individuals and groups, or both.
The measure stipulates that such an exceptional transfer of ownership will be carried out “in the interest of the country’s economic development, following approval by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers,” led by Vice President Carlos Lage.