Laid-off Cuban workers told to raise rabbits

Cuba's communist leaders have drawn up plans to help 500,000 redundant state workers find jobs in the private sector – raising rabbits, painting buildings, making bricks, collecting garbage and piloting ferries across Havana's bay.

Many of the workers tossed from state jobs into the marketplace could see their new enterprises fail within a year, officials acknowledge.

The plans, along with a timetable for which government sectors will feel the axe first, are laid out in an internal Communist Party document obtained by the Associated Press yesterday. Cuba announced the six-month programme of redundancies on Monday.

The document says workers at the ministries of sugar, public health, tourism and agriculture will be let go first – and some lay-offs already began in July. The last in line for cutbacks include civil aviation and the ministries of foreign relations and social services.

Many laid-off workers will be urged to form private co-operatives. Others will be pushed into jobs at foreign-run companies and joint ventures. Still more will need to set up their own small businesses – particularly in the areas of transport and house rental.

The 26-page document – which is dated 24 August and laid out like a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and large headlines – explains what to look for when deciding whom to lay off.