Paltry Car Sales Seen as Sign of Cuba's Priorities

For years, the clearest path to an automobile in Cuba was to get a permit to buy one by completing an overseas mission for the government. A typical returnee might have cobbled together around $5,000, enough to buy a used car or a cheap Russian or Chinese model under the old pricing schedule.

Rodolfo Cid's quest to obtain a car began six years ago when the 55-year-old Construction Ministry engineer agreed to work on a mission in Venezuela. He got a $600 cut of the $3,000 a month that Caracas paid Havana for his services.

When Cid returned after three years, he got the letter authorizing him to buy a car and his name went on a waiting list. His plan was to augment his family's meager income by moonlighting as a taxi driver. Two years passed, and in 2013, he left his job at the ministry.

But late last year, word emerged that all Cubans would be able to buy beginning in January, putting everyone in the same boat. The permit Cid toiled three years for was suddenly worthless.

When the new prices were posted, even the used cars were several times Cid's savings.

"They betrayed the trust that people may have in the institutions, even supporters who did what was asked of them," he said.

"That amount of money is absurd," Cid added. "I can't afford even the smallest one."

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Associated Press writer Peter Orsi contributed to this report.

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Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

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