Cuba Issues Thousands Of Self-Employment Licenses The licenses are aimed at helping to offset coming layoffs of 500,000 government workers, including many Cubans who may not have the wherewithal to start a business or make it on their own.
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Cuba Issues Thousands Of Self-Employment Licenses

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Cuba Issues Thousands Of Self-Employment Licenses

Cuba Issues Thousands Of Self-Employment Licenses

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

But as Nick Miroff reports from Havana, it's not clear if they can create jobs fast enough.

NICK MIROFF: DVD pirates were the first to emerge from the shadows of Cuba's underground economy. They've set up homemade display racks all over the city, blasting bootlegged CDs at pedestrians like street vendors in any other Latin American capital.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MIROFF: Elsewhere, Cubans are delivering pizzas or setting up snack bars and restaurants in their homes, even hiring employees. It might not be a recipe for economic growth, but at least it's creating some optimism during an otherwise worrisome time for Cuban workers.

DAYAMI SANCHEZ: (Foreign language spoken)

MIROFF: Twenty-six-year-old Dayami Sanchez sat at a small stand outside her Havana apartment building, knitting a cap. I'm my own boss. I set my own hours, and I manage my own money, she said. The stuffed animals, hot pads and other knickknacks on her table were all handmade, but it had taken her a week to crochet a pair of $5 gloves.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

RENE RAMOS: (Foreign language spoken)

MIROFF: A few blocks away, 70-year-old Rene Ramos was walking up and down the street blowing a whistle to draw attention to his homemade peanut bars. Without a whiff of irony, Ramos described himself as a symbol of the Cuban Revolution, saying he had been a lieutenant colonel in the Cuban military and served overseas in Angola.

RAMOS: (Foreign language spoken)

MIROFF: Ricardo Torres is a Cuban economist.

RICARDO TORRES: It's not the state anymore. It's you, the main actor of your own destiny or fate, right? It takes time to get used to that scenario, right? So, probably, many people will apply for new licenses, but not everybody will succeed.

MIROFF: For NPR News, I'm Nick Miroff in Havana.

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