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Imported vehicles go on sale in Cuba ending decades-old ban

Cars imported from abroad have gone on sale in Cuba for the first time in 50 years. The decades-old ban was lifted last month as part of President Raul Castro’s plans to liberalize the communist country’s economy.

Cubans were able to purchase foreign made new and old automobiles for the first time since 1959 on Friday,

just weeks after Cuba's council of ministers had agreed to allow cars to be imported

for sale at market prices.

Until now, Cubans wishing to purchase an imported late-model car were first required to obtain special permission cards issued by the country's transport ministry. This was strictly regulated, with the government often granting authorization to its employees or doctors.

Cuba largely banned the sale of cars built in the wake of the 1959 revolution, meaning most had to make do with pre-revolution era automobiles.

Restrictions were somewhat eased in October 2011 when private individuals were again allowed to buy and sell new and used vehicles from each other.

The reform to the car market is just the latest small step that President has introduced in recent years designed to slowly integrate private enterprise into the communist country's state-controlled economy. In some cases, the government has later introduced new restrictions when unanticipated problems have cropped up.

ccp/jlw (dpa, AFP)

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