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Cuba's vintage cars will disappear under new laws

For a while the question why are all the cars in Cuba old has been easy to answer as tight import laws have prevented Cubans from buying new cars. Only cars made before Fidel Castro took office in 1959 have been available to the masses so classics from Oldsmobile, Studebaker and Chevrolet are often found in Cuba.

Until today only doctors, officials and anyone with government connections could purchase new cars, but the country’s latest economic reforms now allow all Cubans the right to buy a new car. The Communist Party’s website calls the reforms an elimination of the “existing mechanisms of approval for the purchase of motor vehicles from the state.” The new laws should quell the public’s frustration with the existing regime which allowed certain members of society to cash in by buying and selling new cars. The black market in Cuba meant that cars were being traded for up to five times their original value. This created “resentment, dissatisfaction and, in not a few cases, led to speculation and enrichment.”

The former approval process will also be dropped so the price will be set by market forces. Although state-owned firms are expected to benefit the most from these changes, even they will face 100% taxes on new vehicle, money which we’ve been told will fund public transport. The taxes and the low demand will see prices of new cars exceeding those of America. Some estimates suggest that Cubans will have to pay four times as much as Americans for the same vehicle.

Since Raul Castro took charge six years ago he’s lessened government control over private enterprises and he’s loosened control on overseas travel. With half a million workers being dropped from the public payroll, Castro’s clearly pushing the firm towards private enterprise. In a way the progress within the car market, delayed as it has been for decades, is a shame because the sight of 1950s cars on Cuban roads has become iconic.

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