Oh, Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

2013 Mercedes Benz A-Class

It may be legal to buy a car in Cuba, but who will be able to afford one? In Cuba, this 2013 Mercedes Benz A-Class will retail for five times its price in the rest of the world. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

On January 10, 2014, the Cuban state liberalized car sales. For the first time in over five decades of Revolution, it will no longer be necessary to obtain permission from the Ministry of Transport to buy a car in Cuba. But in a country where the highest salaries barely reach $40 a month, having enough money to afford the cost of a new automobile is something of a surreal dream.

Most vehicles cost hundreds of thousands of CUCs (Cuban convertible peso). By the island’s official exchange rate, this equals several million Cuban pesos.

A 2013 Peugeot 4008, for example, costs 239,250 CUC. In Spain, its price is around €32,000 (about 44,000 CUC). It’s more or less the same case for China’s Geely vehicles, as well as Mercedes Benz, and BMW: Compared to the rest of the world, prices are five times higher, or more, in Cuba.

To make things worse, buyers won’t find any offers for credit.

The message is very clear: It may now be legal to buy a car, but no Cuban will be able to justify such an enormous expense, which totals far more than their lifetime earnings.

Only state-run companies (and you won’t find any other kind of company in Cuba) will be allowed to import these cars. The government justifies all this by claiming that the massive tax imposed upon the vehicles will be invested in developing public transport.

Cuban protest groups and the international press have torn into the Cuban government since it announced these prices, but it came as no surprise to me. Without a free market economy, we live in an empire where the wishes of those who cling to power are out of reach of both law and common sense.

And so the Raulist reforms will last as long as their mastermind, Raúl Castro, is still alive. After him will come not just the deluge, but the delirium, whose symptoms have been announced today in the hundreds of thousands.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, from Sampsonia Way Magazine

20 January 2014