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Cubans "permitted" to purchase cars without permission

Andy Bolig - December 27, 2013 02:52 PM

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For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cubans will have the right to buy new and used vehicles from the state without government permission

For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cubans will have the right to buy new and used vehicles from the state without government permission, another step toward greater economic freedom on the communist-led island.

Under a reform introduced two years ago, Cubans can buy and sell used cars from each other, but must request authorization from the government to purchase a new vehicle or second-hand one, usually a relatively modern rental car, from State retailers.

The Communist Party newspaper, Granma, said the Council of Ministers approved new regulations on Wednesday that "eliminate existing mechanisms of approval for the purchase of motor vehicles from the state." As a result, Granma said, "the retail sale of new and used motorcycles, cars, vans, small trucks and mini buses for Cubans and foreign residents, companies and diplomats is freed up."

Newer car models are largely in state hands and sold used at a relatively low price to select individuals, for example, Cuban diplomats and doctors who serve abroad, then often resell them at four or five times the price. The Cuban state maintains a monopoly on the retail sale of cars.

The government said about 30 percent of autos sold with government approval last year were quickly resold, indicating that the system was causing “speculation and enrichment.” The new measures, which will be implemented “gradually,” will set a minimum price for auto sales, which the government can tax to help pay for better public transport.

The liberalizing of car sales was one of more than 300 reforms put forth by President Raul Castro, who took over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, and approved in 2011 at a congress of the Communist Party, Cuba's only legal political party. The proposed changes put a greater emphasis on private initiative, which had been largely stifled under Cuba's Soviet-style system, and less government control over the sale and purchase of personal property such as homes and cars.

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