HAVANA TIMES — A sensationalist advertisement one would come across in Cuba before January 1, 1959 announced: “You too can own a Buick!” It wasn’t easy for Cubans to buy a Buick, for which one had to make a down payment of several hundred Cuban pesos (on a par with the US dollar at the time) and subsequent monthly payments that ranged from 100 to 500 pesos.
It was hard but not impossible, and many professionals, teachers and people with steady jobs did manage to make the monthly payments and buy, if not a Buick, at least a Chevrolet with 4 or 5 years of use, to be able to drive to work or take a family trip from time to time.
I know of a couple, both primary school teachers who earned less than 300 Cuban pesos between the two, who, through great effort, walked into a used car dealership and bought a 3-year-old Chevrolet, which they paid in monthly installments of 100 pesos over a 2 to 3 year period.
How did they manage it? They would rent the car out to a driver, Monday to Friday, from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, who would make money off it driving people to nearby towns. This way, they were able to finance the car, and the teachers had the vehicle from 5 in the afternoon until 8 in the morning the next day, as well as on the weekends.
Today, Cuba’s generous “socialist” government, which owns and decides everything through its monopolistic, State capitalist mechanisms, is announcing an end to the prohibition on the sale of new and used cars to the population and says the following straight to our faces: “You too can own a Peugeot!”
This State, the country’s chief (and, until recently, only) employer, which also provides its salaried workers with free public health and education so they can be more productive and work in good physical condition, pays measly wages that range from 300 to 1,000 Cuban pesos a month, that is to say, between 12 and 40 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), a currency that is more or less on a par with the US dollar.
According to what has been announced, 2013 Peugeots have been put on sale by the monopolistic State at something over a quarter of a million dollars, which is roughly a quarter of a million CUC, or more than 6,250,000 Cuban pesos (1 CUC = 25 Cuban pesos).
I know a medical specialist who earns some 700 Cuban pesos a month. Public health employees are among the best paid government employees. This professional, thus, would have to work over 8,900 months, without spending any money, to be able to buy this Peugeot. In other words, he would have to work some 714 years to be able to afford this car.
Here are some other “specials”:
A 2010 Geely at 26,500 CUC or 650, 000 Pesos (928 months, or 77 years of work)
A 2011 Kia Picanto at 38,285 CUC or 957,125 Pesos (1367 months, or 113 years of work)
A 2009 Hyundai Sonata at 60 000 CUC or 1,500,000 Pesos (2,142 months, or 178 years of work).
And a range of other deals for new and used VWs, Toyotas, Renaults and other brands.
The information that has been made public to date makes no mention of payment methods, whether it will be cash down or through an installment plan (and, if so, what the interest rate will be).
I’ll leave all commentary in the hands of readers. I will limit myself to exposing facts and information. If someone were to ask me for my opinion, I would say: yes, yet another absurd prohibition (of the many that still stand) has been eliminated, but this measure has a nearly criminal underside to it, for the country’s economy is facing a severe crisis because of the State-command wage model which the government intends to “update”, not change.
It is yet another measure which does not go to the root of the disaster and seeks to secure more money for the bureaucracy and create the semblance of economic liberalization, yet another affront on the people of Cuba, on behalf of a socialism that has never existed and a people’s revolution that has been betrayed.