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Hundreds of Cuban private enterprises attended a weekend trade fair at Havana’s convention center, in what has been described as a major commercial milestone on the communist island, the Associated Press reported.

More than 700 companies and cooperatives showed off a wide variety of products, such as furniture, clothing and construction materials. The event highlights changes in the restrictive Caribbean nation where the communist government banned nearly all private enterprises for more than half a century.

The changes initially began following the fall of the Soviet Union, when late communist leader, Fidel Castro, allowed the formation of small-scale individual private businesses in the early 1990s. He later shut them down following complaints that they were creating a class of relatively rich people under a system that prizes equality over wealth.

But in 2010, Castro’s brother, Raul, once again allowed the creation of individual businesses, a sector that would employ about 600,000 people before the coronavirus pandemic.

However, major changes came in September, when the government implemented a new policy to allow actual companies that can employ up to 100 people to receive legal funding and conduct business with state-owned firms.

Since then, more than 2,600 “limited responsibility societies” – or SRLs in Spanish – have registered with the majority being private companies

So far, they employ about 42,000 people.

Officials said that the weekend gathering would act as a networking event for fledging entrepreneurs.

Even so, many business people lamented that they faced bureaucratic hurdles, such as import and export red tape.

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