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HAVANA, CUBA– Cuba is growing. The evidence is all over the streets of Havana. There’s construction, new dining establishments and stores, and there’s traffic. Great deals of it. On a current check out to Cuba, at every stoplight I saw lots of classic pre-1960 American vehicles lined up together with Russian, Korean, Chinese and Japanese compacts. However those old American automobiles tourists love so much, are not simply blocking the streets, they’re polluting the city with toxic fumes. Havana is choking in diesel exhaust. Cab driver Ariel García drives a beautiful ’57 Chevy. The vehicle sports wide rims and tires that he stated he paid well over a thousand dollars for. The interior has been redone in white vinyl. But the engine originates from a truck. “If we didn’t have the diesel motor,” García said, “it would be impossible to pay for the gasoline or spend for parts to keep the cars going.” Due to the fact that of the 50-plus years U.S. embargo, replacement parts for these classic cars have actually not been readily available for years. For years Cubans have been repairing the engines utilizing parts pulled from Ladas and other cars from the Soviet Bloc in order to keep their cars on the road. Back in the ’80s and ’90s it wasn’t uncommon to ride a when elegant ’50s Cadillac with Lada pistons, no electronics and home-made window cranks. RELATED: Mastercard Will Be Readily available in Havana ATMs After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Cuban economy tanked. This decades-long financial depression known as the ‘Special Duration’ brought the country to a standstill. The bodegas were empty. Gasoline was allocated and expensive. There were essentially no automobiles on the street. Havana appeared like a ghost town. In the mid ’90s, the Cuban federal government started passing a series of reforms that assisted jump start the economy. They legalized the dollar, enabled little private businesses to open and expanded tourism. Quickly a Peugeot dealer opened, and Japanese, Korean and Chinese automobiles were available for sale to diplomats and others who …
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