Cuba gets green light to buy and sell cars

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 29, 2011

It was announced today that Cuba officially gave its citizens green light to buy and sell cars in one of the most awaited economic reforms under President Raul Castro. For those who don’t know, this will be the first time since the 1958 revolution when Cubans and foreign residents will be able to do what they want with their car "without any prior authorization from any entity."

Still, there are some limitations as the regulations will only allow Cubans with government permission and foreign residents to import cars while the other people living there will be limited to the autos already found on the island.

Before this regulations, Cubans were not able to sell or give their cars to family members, syas Autonews.

Regarding foreign residents temporarily living on the island, they will have to stick with the limit of buying two cars, imported or not, during their stay.

Currently, Cuba has may 1950s or earlier cars, most of them American-made, which means that the Cuban streets will get now a mouth of fresh air, literally.

Cuba is a country with an uneasy relationship with the automobile. Subject to an embargo from the United States since 1960, Cubans have been forced to import from Chinese companies such as Geely for their police cars and taxis and from Russia which has exported Volgas, Ladas, Moskvichs, and trucks from Zil and KrAZ. At present it is assumed there are only 173,000 cars in Cuba and the majority of those are in bad need of repair or replacing.

Old American cars in Cuba

In spite of the embargo which has lasted more than 50 years, there are still as many as 60,000 American cars in Cuba. These vintage cars have been repaired over and over and if you were to look under the hood you would see newer engines, batteries, sparkplugs and disc brakes all scavenged from much newer vehicles, mostly Russian in design. The vast majority of these cars show remarkable wear and tear and yet many are kept on as family heirlooms and they can only be passed on if the correct certificates are all in order.

Unfortunately because of the age of the cars, many of them are incredibly inefficient, with high running costs and fuel consumption. They make many of these vehicles unsuitable for modern Cuban lifestyles, with the high cost of goods and relatively low wages. Due in part to these inefficiencies, the amount of travelling done by Cubans has dropped from 3000 km/year to just 800 km. this year.

Another key factor is the tendency to overload the vehicles way past their maximum capacity and drive on roads which are falling to pieces.

The age of the vehicles has meant there is a distinct scarcity of parts and considering the embargo is still in effect the situation is unlikely to change. However there have been talks over recent months of a possible lifting of some the embargo restrictions. Former President Bill Clinton is negotiating to allow families to send $300 a month and mail services between the two countries which were withdrawn in 1963. This would then allow the introduction of parts to be traded between the two countries for the first time in 53 years.

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