Cuba citizens are disgusted over extreme new car markups and shaking their heads at prices far beyond what an average person could hope to earn in their entire life. In a country where the most common cars have outlived the companies that built them and with no legal way to purchase new cars since 1959, citizens lined up at dealerships for their chance to acquire a fancy modern car. The vast majority of Cubans were disappointed by the markup created by a 100 percent sales tax levied by the government leaving citizens angry and disappointed. Officials say the taxes will go towards fixing the decrepit infrastructure and public transport of Cuban cities, but few citizens believe that all the money will go where they are told it will, and the rest are wondering how any money can go anywhere when the average person cannot hope to ever afford a new car.
Since the 1959 revolution that saw the Cuban government convert to Communism there has been a trade embargo on the country set by the U.S. As a result there have been no new car sales in the country since and the majority of Cubans drive American or Soviet cars from the 50’s era. Despite the bonus of every Cuban city becoming a world-famous outdoor classic car museum, President Raul Castro felt it is time to modernize the economic model and loosened strict rules that dictated sales of new cars to civilians in 2011.
Modern Peugots have landed on the island, but with MRSP in other countries hovering around $29,000 Cubans are expected to pay more than $260,000. One in four Cuba citizens disgusted over extreme new car markups work for their government, making the average monthly wage twenty U.S. dollars. With wages across the nation so low, the new cars are at best a luxury tax for the few wealthy citizens of Cuba, at worst an unattainable goal to the masses.
Before the policy changes that took place in 2011, only cars that were in Cuba at the time of the revolution could be freely bought and sold. Any new car could only be imported by those lucky enough to obtain from the government a very tricky permit. The permits were almost exclusively reserved for popular athletes, top officials, and select artists. These permits were so rare that they were often sold on the black market for outrageous sums of money. This time around though, Cuba citizens are disgusted over extreme new car markups set up by their own government as opposed to shady swindlers.
Raul Castro, who took over presidency from his brother Fidel in 2008, has brought in many new policies to increase personal freedom and reduce government involvement in the lives of Cuban citizens. While the moves have been celebrated, his latest decision will likely not be received happily. While the ability for Cubans to import new vehicles for the time in over 50 years is a huge step forward, the exorbitant prices set by the government are an insult to their citizens.
By Daniel O’Brien