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Cuban lawmakers meet to consider Castro’s reforms

Cuba's President Raul Castro gestured as he was applauded by members of the parliament after his closing speech during a session by the National Assembly in Havana on Monday.

Ismael Francisco/AP

Cuba's President Raul Castro gestured as he was applauded by members of the parliament after his closing speech during a session by the National Assembly in Havana on Monday.

HAVANA — Cuba’s National Assembly gathered Monday for one of its twice-a-year legislative sessions, with the country’s economic reform plans, a new tax system, and budgetary issues prominent on the agenda.

Islanders and Cuba-watchers will be seeing if the assembly takes any action on long-promised measures such as the easing of travel restrictions, increased private farming of state-controlled land, or the approval of cooperative businesses.

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Foreign journalists were not allowed access to the session in the capital’s Palace of Conventions.

President Raul Castro’s five-year plan to overhaul the economy has legalized the sale of homes and cars and paved the way for hundreds of thousands of Cubans to go into business for themselves. But the pace of change has slowed this year with no major reforms since December.

Earlier this year, Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon said in an interview that a ‘‘radical and profound’’ change to the travel rules, which keep most Cubans from leaving the country, was imminent. There has been no word since then about scrapping the much-loathed white card, for which islanders must apply to travel abroad. Promises to establish rules permitting midsize co-op businesses have likewise not yet come to fruition. And last week the island’s burgeoning small business class was dealt a blow with the low-key announcement of new, stiff tariffs on imported goods.

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