The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil

On the Sale of Automobiles in Cuba (Part II)


HAVANA TIMES — When, during the concert calling for the release of the Cuban Five held at Havana’s Anti-Imperialist Tribune, musician Roberto Carcasses made the remarks that earned him a harsh reprimand, neither him nor anyone imagined that the liberalization of the automobile market in Cuba was around the corner.

Though it is true that there had been talk of such a measure for a long time, it hadn’t been openly debated, or approved, when the concert aired. Like many other things in the country, that was also “under consideration.”

What some called Carcasses’ out-of-place remarks were probably the push that the pertinent authorities needed to finally decree the much-awaited law.

For public opinion in Cuba and abroad, it was fairly scandalous that an internationally renowned and established artist should have to take advantage of a concert held in a public space to complain about the government’s delay in selling him (and others) a car.

As the old saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” I imagine Carcasses’ application was prioritized and that he was able to buy a car before the infamous letter of authorization was abolished and vehicles began to be sold at current prices.

Since all “good news” tend to bring bad news with them in Cuba, those who are still complaining (and with good reason) are the medical doctors, artists, engineers and all other Cuban professionals and technicians who, through great sacrifice, had managed to secure a letter authorizing them to purchase a car.

These Cubans have taken part in 2 to 4-year internationalist missions in different countries, missions where they have received between 25 to 30 percent of the money paid Cuba for their services. The rest has gone to State coffers.

Back in Cuba (and provided their work made them eligible to buy a car) they were asked to get a letter from their ministry and another from the Ministry of Transportation. They received these letters after a meticulous review of their earnings. Then, they were asked to submit a certificate from the bank where they kept their money.

The New Year, however, brought them some rather bad news: the mechanism based on these letters of authorization was annulled. Now, they are being told to buy the cars from dealerships, and at what prices!

Those already in possession of the letter feel conned, cheated and utterly disheartened by the new measure. And justifiably, for no one stopped to think about these people, who had secured authorization to buy a car over a year ago and could never afford to pay the prices announced.

In acknowledgement of their record of services rendered for the country, the text of the decree reads: “The measure authorizing the sale of cars will be implemented gradually and progressively, prioritizing those who currently hold letters of authorization (…)”

They argue that this measure was implemented because 30% of the cars obtained through the previous mechanism were sold shortly after they were purchased. What’s that supposed to mean?

We know that most of that 30 percent that sold their cars did so to buy, build or finish repairing a home, having no other means at their disposal to do so. That’s how people live here, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

What of the other 70 percent? What’s going on with them? People must continue to protest, complain and make demands on the government. The State has to reformulate these measures and change these absurd prices. So, they must cry out and complain, because the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

To be continued…

One thought on “The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil

  • Another interesting wrinkle in the Cuban car market telenovela. My mother-in-law did a 2 year mission in Venezuela five years ago and when she came back received a permission letter to buy a car. Scraping the money together, she bought some 10 year-old Polish deathtrap for $8000 cuc. This car is a pothole from falling apart but for tooling around Guantanamo, serves its purpose. Since the new car-buying policy, the value of this car around Guantanamo has doubled. In Havana it would be triple the price she paid for it. The bad news is there were only a handful of people who could have afforded the car at the original price. Even fewer potential buyers at the new price.

Comments are closed.