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Raul Castro: Cuba to Allow More Self-Employment

Cuba's leader Raul Castro says his government will scale back its involvement in the nation's economy and allow more Cubans to operate their own businesses and hire workers.

Mr. Castro said Sunday the aim is to create jobs for nearly 1 million workers currently employed by the government who will be laid off.  Ninety-five percent of all Cubans work for the government.

The Cuban leader made the remarks at the twice-yearly session of the National Assembly.

He did not say how many business licenses would be issued.

Earlier, Economy Minister Marino Murillo said the deputies will discuss changing Cuba's economic model, but that the changes should not be called "reforms."  He cited the example of small barber shops that have been turned over to employees who can set their own prices while paying rent to the state.

Although he has made several public appearances in recent weeks, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro was not at the meeting.  His chair has been empty since he turned power over to his brother, Raul, four years ago.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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