Cuba reform may permit foreign travel

Man reads new economic guidelines in Havana, Cuba. 9 May 2011 Documents listing the proposed economic changes have been distributed across Cuba

Cuba says it is studying plans that would allow its citizens to travel abroad as tourists for the first time in more than 50 years.

The proposed move is one of 313 reforms backed by the Communist Party Congress behind closed doors in April and published in new economic guidelines.

Other reforms include legalising the private sale of property and cars and expanding private co-operatives.

The moves are part of a major shake-up of Cuba's struggling economic model.

Details of the proposed reforms are sketchy. The guideline referring to foreign travel simply states: "Study a policy that allows Cubans living in the country to travel abroad as tourists."

Cautious reforms

At the moment, Cubans wishing to travel abroad must file an exit request that may be turned down. The paperwork involved can cost hundreds of dollars at a time.

Another guideline says the state should "establish the buying and selling of homes" for citizens.

However, there is no detailed information on how the system would work.

Previously, details of reforms have only been released once they become law and are published in the government's official newsletter.

Earlier this year, the government began issuing licences allowing citizens to become self-employed.

Cuban President Raul Castro has championed limited free-market reforms since taking the reins of power from his brother Fidel in 2008.

At the recent party congress in Havana, the two brothers appeared side-by-side for the first time, demonstrating that Fidel, now 84, endorsed his younger brother's policies.

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