Cubans will be allowed to buy and sell homes for the first time since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 under a package of sweeping reforms.
By Robin Yapp, Sao Paulo
Since the Communist revolution, inhabitants of the island have only been allowed to swap homes through a complicated system or pass them on to their children.
But a raft of reforms agreed at the first congress of the Communist Party since 1997 includes a plan to legalise property sales.
Under the current system of home swaps, a culture of corruption involving “under-the-table” payments has developed.
However, President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, said that the concentration of property would not be allowed and no details were given on how sales would operate.
The plan to allow home sales was one of about 300 approved by the party, which also include more self-employment, cutting a million government jobs in the coming years, encouraging foreign investment and reducing state spending.
Political reform was also on the agenda with President Castro using his speech at the weekend to propose that top political positions, including the presidency, should be limited to two five-year terms.
The radical changes were backed by Fidel Castro, president of the country for 49 years until 2008, who made a rare public appearance at the closing ceremony on Tuesday.
In a front page column in the Communist party newspaper Granma, he wrote: “The new generation is called to rectify and change without hesitation all that must be rectified and changed, and to continue demonstrating that socialism is also the art of making the impossible happen.”
He described “the impossible” as “building and bringing about the revolution of the poor, by the poor and for the poor, and defending it for half a century from the most powerful military power that ever existed,” referring to the United States.
The 84-year-old also formally resigned as first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and was replaced by his brother, who had already fulfilled the role in all but name since 2006.
The reforms announced are aimed at securing the future of socialism in Cuba as the Soviet-style economy struggles and popular uprisings continue to cause political turmoil in the Arab world.
China, one of Cuba’s biggest backers, gave its backing to the changes.
Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the decisions taken in Cuba would have a “profound and far reaching impact on the development of socialism in Cuba.”
But President Castro has ruled out broader market reforms like those adopted by China, saying they would be “in open contradiction to the essence of socialism… because they were calling for allowing the concentration of property.”