HAVANA TIMES — “Who is the last in line to buy a car?” asks a Cuban in front of the Peugeot dealership and everyone else laughs out loud. Today was the first day of unrestricted new car sales but the joy received a bucket of cold water: a car costs between US $90,000 and a quarter of a million dollars.
Things are no better with the used cars being offered. A Chinese car with several years of use and tens of thousands of miles costs more than $20,000. “I read it on the internet and I came to see for myself because I couldn’t believe it,” said Vicente Gomez, adding “this has to be a joke.”
Trucker Dorian Lopez loudly showed his indignation saying: “The prices are outrageous; it’s just so they can say they are selling cars in Cuba but it’s really disrespectful.”
It’s because “they are really Peugeot-Ferraris,” laughs another looking at the dealership window.
“This is a trap because if I show up with $260,000 to buy a Peugeot, the next day I’ll have the DTI (police) in my house to arrest me,” explains another person who went to the dealer to verify the prices.
The government had announced that the cars would be sold at market value but the prices listed far exceed that parameter. Mechanics and experts I spoke with swear that no car has ever sold in Cuba for $260,000. And Guillermo Oropeza assures me “at that price you can buy three cars on the street .”
Authorities say the profit from the sales will go to a fund dedicated to the promotion of public transport. One Cuban commented on Facebook that the government wants to solve the transport problem across the country with the sale of a single car. The irony has its reasons, every car that is sold would buy several buses.
The Ministry of Transportion would then run out of excuses. With the money from 2000 car sales they would have enough funds to buy 4,000 buses in good condition. If only 1000 cars were sold, they could still solve the public transport problem in the capital.
Now, all that is needed is for the fund to be public with the authorities regularly informing the public on how much money has entered from the sale of cars and how many buses they buy with the huge financial resources that fall from the sky.
Obtaining a car in Cuba is now more difficult than during prohibition
The possibility of buying a car is much worse now than before the opening because the outrageous prices close the possibility of acquiring one for Cuban diplomats, most artists, many sports figures and all physicians who work abroad on international medical brigades.
But the measure does not only affect the local population. Today, when the government seeks to promote foreign investment, it does not seem like a good incentive to tell the business people that their company cars must be bought at Ferrari prices.
It appears that the theme of cars is traumatic in Cuba; none of the economic reforms of the last six years has been so obstructed. First Cubans were forbidden to purchase new cars and now they establish prices unparalleled in the world.
I doubt there is another place where cars cost so much. The prices are double the price tag in the most expensive countries. “Cubans either fall short or go too far,” once said General Máximo Gómez, the Dominican who led the struggle for Cuba’s independence.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published on the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.