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Cuban Streets May Finally Escape the 1960s

Cuban Streets May Finally Escape the 1960s
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

In Cuba, a ban on imported vehicles has kept the roads full of classic American cars. But those famously vintage-looking streets could get a modern makeover next year.

Today, the Cuban government announced it will lift restrictions on imported cars for the first time in 50 years. The country, which has no car factories of its own, will soon open its borders to imported automobiles, vans, trucks, and motorcycles. Cuban roads are currently populated with around 60,000 vintage American cars, as well as Soviet-made vehicles from the 70s and 80s and more modern Asian-made cars imported by the government.


Classic American cars used as taxis in Havana, Cuba. (Reuters/Desmond Boylan)

Part of President Raul Castro’s plan to update the Cuban economic model, the reform will benefit tens of thousands of small private businesses in the country. It'll also put an end to the highly controversial practice of granting some Cubans -- namely doctors and diplomats -- special permission to own imported cars.

Under the new system, the people who would've gotten special permits will still get first dibs. Meanwhile, average Cubans probably still won’t be able to afford any car at all. According to the AFP, Cubans average a salary of just $20 per month, while a 1957 Ford costs around $12,000 and a Cadillac convertible can cost up to $80,000. The price of imported cars, sold through state-owned retailers, are expected to be just as high.

If it's any consolation, proceeds from sales are supposed to go towards updating the public transportation system.

Top image: Drivers relax at their American classic cars at the Jose Marti international airport in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Keywords: Laws, Cuba, Streets, Cars

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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