Cuban President Raul Castro, brother of revolutionary senior citizen Fidel Castro, is a man of the people. So much a man of the people that last year he allowed Cubans to purchase automobiles from government dealerships without first going to the government for permission.
There's just one problem with Raul's reform: The people are too poor to buy cars.
Only 50 cars and four motorcycles were sold by the country's 11 national dealerships in the first six months of the reform, the pro-government website Cubadebate reported Monday.
Most of the sales were of used cars, as the prices of new cars were marked up by 400 percent or more.
The average price of cars sold, according to Cubadebate, was $23,000. The average state salary in Cuba is $20 per month, which means most Cubans could afford a car after 96 years of work — giving new meaning to the term luxury vehicle.
Prior to the 2013 reform, only senior members of the communist party were allowed to purchase cars from abroad. Everyone else was forced to make do with models imported to the country before the revolution on their behalf.
While ordinary Cubans cannot possibly afford cars at the prices offered by the government, Raul has plans to keep them moving: The government has announced that 75 percent of the proceeds from car sales will be invested in Cuba's public transportation infrastructure, which is creaking along just like everything else in the country.