MIAMI (CBS4) — For more than half a century, Cubans on the island have kept old American cars in running condition. But now, the Cuban government is hoping to get other vehicles on the road by relaxing restrictions on car sales.
The change, however, comes with a hefty price tag.
A car lot run by the government in Havana is where many Cubans’ dreams of owning a car come to die. For the first time since the 1959 Revolution, Cubans can buy cars without special government authorization and endless bureaucracy.
They just need cash, lots of it.
“It’s too expensive,” said one Cuban man at the car lot. “I don’t know why they did this, the state is supposed to protect workers.”
Expensive is an understatement.
At the car lot in Havana, a four-year-old Jeep goes for $90,000. And don’t bother trying to haggle. The price is not negotiable.
At a Peugeot dealership nearby, a new sedan sells for $262,000. That’s a tough nut to crack in a country where the average worker earns $20 a month and many need wheels to get around.
“Who doesn’t need a car,” one man said. “I work 25-26 kilometers from where I live. A car is a necessity, not a luxury. It’s not easy going to work.”
The Cuban government said part of the revenue generated from the wallet-gouging sales will go to fix the country’s faltering transportation system. But for now, the iconic American cars from the 1950’s will continue to be the most reliable way to get around.
A source inside the island told CBS4 News Anchor Eliott Rodriguez that almost no one in Cuba has the resources to buy cars on the new market, and wonders if the changes are a way for the government to say Cubans are free to buy cars, when in reality they can’t.