At the beginning of this year, the Cuban people took a small step towards larger societal equality. For decades, a special permit was required to purchase a car, and permits were only granted to diplomats, technicians, doctors, those on foreign missions, and those with bank accounts outside of Cuba. This permitting system was removed this year, allowing anyone to purchase a vehicle from one of Cuba's eleven state-run car dealerships. It also allowed for used car sales between people.
While Cubans are now legally able to purchase cars, only fifty cars and four motorcycles have been sold since the permitting system was removed. Considering 11 million live in Cuba, this is a staggeringly low amount. The permitting system was announced in December, but prices on cars shot up in January.
A Peugeot that runs $53,000 in the United Kingdom sells for $262,000 at a Havana dealership. A Kia Rio sells for $13,600 in the United States, but for $42,000 in Cuba. Dealerships are also allowed to sell outdated rental cars and other used vehicles, though these are overpriced as well. Sales totaled $1.3 million throughout all eleven state run dealerships, an average of $23,800 per vehicle. Most of these appear to be used cars.
The average wage in Cuba is about $20 a month, and most people earn this working for the government. That's 175 years of work to afford a Kia Rio, if you had no other expenses. Cuban authorities have said 75 percent of the income from the car sales will go to public transportation efforts.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.