Economy tanking, Cuba launches some long-delayed reforms

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has launched the first in a series of long-promised reforms meant to bolster the country’s struggling private sector and its economy as a whole. The island’s thousands of restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, mechanics and other private businesses have operated for years without the ability to import, export or buy supplies in wholesale markets. Now the government says it will let private businesses buy wholesale for the first time. Ministers also announced that private business people could sign contracts to import and export goods through dozens of state-run companies. Private business owners have welcomed the steps, though some are skeptical they will go far enough.