But many Cubans chafed that the government’s list did not include opportunities created by recently increased access to the internet and Cubans’ own seemingly limitless ability to innovate and invent.
Now they will have the ability to work in over 2,000 different fields.
Self-employment and capitalism were all but forbidden in Cuba until its near-total economic collapse, brought about by the fall of Soviet Union, then the island’s largest trading party.
Gradually, and with regular backtracking, the Cuban government allowed Cubans to stop working low-paid state jobs and go into business for themselves. By the government’s own statistics, more than 600,000 Cubans now work in the private sector, although the number is likely far higher when accounting for the island’s thriving black market.
Still, Cuban government officials often have treated the island’s entrepreneurs as a necessary evil and a possible Trojan Horse that could allow opponents in the United States to at long last bring down the revolution.
And while the official line from Cuban officials is that they have been implementing free market reforms “without hurry but without stopping,” the opening had stalled out as the government seemed to doubt the wisdom of further empowering Cuban entrepreneurs.
The government will still prohibit or restrict Cubans from privately undertaking 124 activities. While those activities have yet to be disclosed, they will likely continue the state’s monopoly on health care, telecommunications and mass media.
The new measure, over time, will likely alter the face of the island’s economy, said Cuban economist Ricardo Torres.
“We don’t know yet which 124 activities will remain prohibited but it’s safe to assume that the possibilities will be expanded for professionals,” Torres told CNN. “An old demand in a country that has made an enormous investment in education. “
“This is long overdue, it’s welcome news, and the United States should affirm that the embargo was never intended, and will not be used, to penalize private enterprise in Cuba,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) posted on his Twitter account.
“After more than half a century isn’t it time to repeal a Cold War embargo that has failed to achieve any of its objectives, and has only made life harder for the struggling Cuban people?”
Earlier this month, Leahy, a long-time advocate for improved relations with Cuba, co-sponsored a long-shot bill to lift the nearly six-decade-old US economic embargo on the island.
Cuba’s endlessly inventive and long suffering entrepreneurs will be watching to see what happens.