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Cubans hit by sticker shock

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Until recently, visitors to Cuba have experienced a time warp back to the 1950’s where those lucky enough to own cars were still driving pre-revolutionary vehicles such as Chevy Bel Airs and even obsolete Studebakers built before 1959, when Fidel Castro and his followers came to power, although a few privileged individuals were given permission to buy new vehicles such as the Russian made Lada.

That, however, began to change when Raoul Castro’s government finally lifted the ban requiring special permits to trade and buy cars there this past October, opening up, not only a new market, but a new way of life for many of its citizens.

Still, as many Cubans have begun flocking to dealerships now open in Havana; their dreams of driving their own cars have been severely curtailed by inflated prices imposed by the Communist government, that has traditionally used high mark-ups on goods as services.

According to a report by the Associated Press, while most Americans are able to buy a new Kia Rio hatchback for about $13,600 here, the purchase price for the same car in Cuba is closer t $42,000, while a “high-end” car such as the Peugeot 508 family sedan can run nearly $262,000 (compared to $53,000 in the United Kingdom).
The new law also requires both sellers and purchasers to cough up an additional 4% sales tax, and buyers must attest to the fact that “they didn’t obtain their money illegally.”