Thu, Nov 14, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Cubans welcome possible repeal of home theater ban

AP, HAVANA

Something unusual appears to be happening in Havana. The Communist government may be backing off an unpopular economic crackdown barely a week after it was announced — a feat of political dexterity that islanders say they are not used to seeing from a leadership in power since the 1950s.

The brouhaha centers on a ban announced on Nov. 2 on the dozens of private home cinemas and video game salons that have mushroomed in recent months, becoming a popular diversion for entertainment-starved residents.

The government denounced the cinemas as spreading “uncultured drivel” to the young, and ordered them closed for stretching the boundaries on the kinds of private businesses allowed under reforms instituted by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Then came the backlash, with entrepreneurs bemoaning thousands of dollars in lost investment and moviegoers saying they were exasperated by heavy-handedness toward a harmless diversion. The official reaction was swift and unprecedented.

An article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on Monday acknowledged there was wide disapproval of the ban and said some considered it to be “a step back” for Castro’s program of limited economic liberalization.

Analysts said the reversal could signal a greater willingness by the government to heed the desires of private entrepreneurs and their customers, as well as their growing influence in a country where the government still controls as much as about 80 percent of the economy.

The article in Granma Islanders interviewed by The Associated Press have repeatedly defended the salons as healthy entertainment options for teenagers. It is commonly held that they should be reopened, regulated and taxed, just like the thousands of other private businesses launched since Castro’s reforms began in earnest in 2010.

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