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Cuba finally legalises sale of cars

Cuba has legalised the sale and purchase of cars for all citizens in another major step in the communist-run island's economic transformation and one that the public has been urging for decades.

The government announced the move in April but sales have been on hold until the measure was published into law in the Official Gazette.

Under the law, which takes effect on October 1, buyers and sellers must each pay a 4% tax, and buyers must make a sworn declaration that the money used for the purchase was obtained legally.

Unrestricted sales had previously been limited to cars built before the 1959 revolution, one of the reasons Cuba's streets are about the only place on the planet one routinely finds a multitude of finned American classics from the 1950s such as Chevrolet Bel Airs and Chrysler Imperials, all in various states of disrepair.

Doctors, athletes, artists and others sent abroad on official business were allowed to bring cars back or purchase a boxy, Russian-made Lada or Moscovich from the state. Some senior workers were given company cars, though fuel usage is strictly monitored to make sure they are only driven for work reasons.

The new law will allow the sale of cars from all models and years, and it legalises ownership of more than one car, although tax rates go up slightly.

"It is a very positive step," said Rolando Perez, a Havana resident who was standing in line to get a licence to go into business for himself. "They should have done it a long time ago."

The 40-page Gazette also says that Cubans who leave the island for good can transfer ownership of their car to a relative or sell it outright. Previously, the state could seize the vehicles of those who emigrated.

While most car sales have been illegal without government permission since the early 1960s, used vehicles have been widely traded in a booming black market for years. Buyers would hand over large amounts of cash under what amounted to handshake agreements, with title not changing hands.

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From Belfast Telegraph