Private Carriers, Annoyed by the New Attempt To ‘Cap’ Prices in Cuba

According to the Directorate, Havana has “46 passenger transport routes operated by private carriers, with an average distance of approximately seven miles.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 5 June 2023 — The young man extends his hand with a 200 peso bill that the driver grabs, without returning any change. It is the price of a collective taxi on the stretch from the Parque de la Fraternidad to Santiago de las Vegas, in Havana, a distance of a little more than 14 miles. Beginning next Friday, private drivers will be obliged to charge half that for that journey, according to the new maximum prices set by the General Directorate of Provincial Transport.

The new rates arise “from the need to update the prices of the passenger transport service offered by the Non-State Forms of Management,” says the note published on June 5 by the state entity. The initial proposal was “coordinated with the majority of the holders who have a transport operation license, in each of their territories,” it adds.

According to the Directorate, Havana has “46 passenger transport routes operated by private carriers, with an average distance of approximately 7 miles.” The prices for a short section are set at 45 pesos, the averages at 70 and 100, and the longer routes, such as the one from Guanabo beach to Old Havana, is set at 170.

The new figures represent at least half of what private carriers are currently charging, rates that have not stopped rising since the fuel crisis decreased the availability of transport. Drivers allege difficulties in buying gasoline, high prices for spare parts and a  general increase in the cost of living.

In 2021, the year in which the Ordering Task* began, prices in Cuba suffered a 77.3% increase in the consumer price index (CPI) mainly from transport, which grew by 188%, a fact made public by the National Office of Information and Statistics (Onei). Since then, prices have continued to increase without seeing an end to the rise.

“Neither the State nor the passenger gives anything to the taxi driver,” laments David Pousada in a harsh comment on site of the Provincial Directorate of Transport. “As long as the driver has to buy medicines at 1,000 pesos, a can of oil at 1,500, a package of chicken at 3,000, fuel at 400 per liter and a soft drink in the cafeteria at 150, prices will not go down.”

At the collection points, such as the Parque de la Fraternidad, the news spread on Monday morning among the drivers. “This is the country of the 15 days: nothing is fixed. Now they are capping prices. The inspectors stand on every street corner, they fine us, they take some drivers prisoner to intimidate us, and after two weeks everything goes back to the way it was yesterday,” says Roly, who drives a nine-seater vehicle that makes the route to Playa.

Customers, on the other hand, are torn between hope and doubt. “It relieves me, of course, because if this is true I’m going to spend half of what I’m spending now to go from La Víbora to the Capitolio,” admits a young woman who works in a private restaurant near Central Park. “But other times, when they have announced capped prices, what has happened is that many drivers stay home and won’t go to work for that small amount of money.”

Others, such as Yuniel, 23, ask: “On the route that costs 45, what driver is going to return five pesos to you if you paid with a 50-peso bill?” According to this young man, “it’s not just about prices but also about the lack of paper money, especially small bills, because ATMs can spend days without cash, and the lines to withdraw money are getting longer and longer.”

The authorities warn that “the actions of confrontation and control on the road will be reinforced (…), applying to drivers who are detected in violation of the established prices, Decree 30 of 2021. In the case of those who exercise the activity illegally, it will act with greater rigor by applying Decree 45 of 2021.”

They have also enabled the telephone number 78813110 and the email so that the customers themselves report drivers who violate the new rates to “act on the offender” and ask that the report include “day, time, license plate number of the vehicle and the price charged.”

In addition to Havana, the new prices have reached the center of the Island, where on Monday the local press announced that “the price of 15 pesos per passenger is fixed for combustion tricycles, within the city of Cienfuegos, on the perimeter from any point of the city to the ring road,” and in the case of two-seater motorcycles, “the price is 30 within the mentioned perimeter.

It is expected that in the coming days similar news will be published in the official media of the rest of the country’s cities.

*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” [Tarea Ordenamiento] is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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