Cuba gives green light to buying, selling cars

Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:14pm EDT
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By Nelson Acosta and Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cubans will have the right to buy and sell cars in a much-anticipated reform under President Raul Castro, another step toward greater economic freedom on the communist-led island.

An official government decree published on Wednesday said Cubans and foreign residents would now be able to do with their cars what they wanted "without any prior authorization from any entity."

The regulations, which take effect on Saturday, are not without limits, but they were welcomed by Cubans, most of whom have not been able to own cars for more than five decades.

"It's great because it was something forbidden and prices were really high -- and if you had a car you weren't able to do anything with it," said office worker Silvia Santos.

"It's a way of freeing something," she said.

The liberalizing of car sales was one of more than 300 reforms put forth by Castro and approved in April at a congress of the Communist Party, Cuba's only legal political party.

The proposed changes put a greater emphasis on private initiative, which had been largely stifled under Cuba's Soviet-style system, and less government control.

Previously, only automobiles that were in Cuba before the 1959 revolution could be freely bought and sold, which is why there are so many 1950s or older cars, most of them American-made, rumbling through Cuban streets.   Continued...

<p>A car is driven past the city capitol building in Havana September 28, 2011. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>