Poor Cubans Eye Gold Rush as Car Market Opens

Waiter earning $15 a month can sell 30-year-old Moskvich for $5K
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2011 2:00 PM CST
Poor Cubans See Gold Rush as Car Market Opens
Cubans ride in an old car on Havana's coastal "Malecon" in Cuba, July 9, 2006.   (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

Now that Cuba is allowing people to buy and sell cars, classic automobiles are going up for sale—creating a bubble that allows the wealthy to buy them, and poverty-stricken sellers to suddenly strike it rich, the New York Times reports. One waiter who earns $15 a month is looking forward to selling his decrepit, 30-year-old Moskvich for at least $5,500. “This car has been bleeding me dry,” he says. “Now it’s an asset that I can sell, and do something else with the money.”

But not many Cubans can afford it—only those with foreign currency, like doctors, musicians, and airline flight attendants. And such sales are fueling already-high prices for private sales: A new Hyundai may cost $30,000 on the lot, for example, and sell for $10,000 more on the street. But such are the imbalances as President Raul Castro slowly opens up Cuba's economy. “Prices here are absurd, but the street is what determines the price,” says one Cuban. “What you’re paying for is not the car itself, it’s the privilege of owning one.” (More Cuba stories.)

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