For half a century Cubans have not been able to indulge in one of the modern world’s great passions, cars.
Until now people have had to apply to the government if they wanted to buy a vehicle from a state retailer, and a rule that was only lifted in 2011 meant most vehicles dated from the 1950s or before. Only newer Russian models were available; hardly something to set the pulses racing. No longer. Now it is a free market – sort of.
“Let’s see if a revolutionary worker’s salary can buy one of these cars at these prices. Even if they lend him the money to repay in 40 years, let’s see if a honest person who lives off his salary can buy one,” said one man at a car lot.
And therein lies the rub, because unless you buy from someone else new and second-hand cars still have to be bought from state dealers, where markups are 400 percent or more. An ordinary Peugeot can end up costing more than a Porsche, and buyers are leaving showrooms in disgust when they see how little the reform will help them take to the roads.