For some months now, unusual sights have been reported from the streets of Havana: From time to time new vehicles from the United States are cruising in the Cuban capital, from General Motors pickup trucks to Jeeps and large trucks, various models are among them. The reason for this is relaxation of the U.S. economic blockade, which was passed in May 2022. They provide that private companies and self-employed persons can import vehicles from the United States, while state entities remain excluded from the relaxations.
The first to receive a license to trade vehicles in May this year was the U.S. company Fuego Enterprises Inc. from Miami. Now the U.S. Department of Commerce has also granted a special license to the associated online store Katapulk. Up to now, its main products are groceries and household goods, which are delivered to the doorstep by delivery service. With the new license, Katapulk will in the future also market motorcycles, trucks, trailers, buses, construction machinery and agricultural equipment, as well as parts and components for the latter. The importation will run through six different state-owned companies and joint ventures authorized for this purpose by the Cuban side.
Licensed brands include manufacturers of commercial vehicles, agricultural machinery and private passenger cars such as Ford, John Deere, General Motors, Volkswagen Trucks, Mercedes Benz, as well as Asian brands such as Nissan, Toyota and Dongfeng. In the case of construction machinery, drills, forklifts, concrete mixers and mini-excavators, among others, are allowed. In the agricultural sector, the license gives quite a bit; in addition to tractors of all kinds, mulchers, plows, seeders, irrigation systems, grain elevators and several dozen other pieces of agricultural equipment can be sold from the United States. Articulated and school buses can also be imported, both new and used, as long as they were manufactured between 2018 and 2023.
“This new license is in response to demand from customers who have long been interested in purchasing motorcycles, buses and trucks of all categories. Most importantly, it will make us a practical option for private manufacturers, cooperatives and SMEs from the agricultural and construction sectors,” said Katapulk founder and president Hugo Cancio. It will be used to “offer the management forms that exist in Cuba today the possibility of acquiring specialized equipment for their activity. All this will have a positive impact on their growth and productivity. These are two key sectors of the economy in which we want to participate in this way,” Cancio explained.
Katapulk is a subsidiary of Fuego Enterprises Inc. with a business capital worth of $19.1 million. It was founded in Miami in 2004 and has been present in Cuba for several years with the online store of the same name. In 2021, the license for the online store was extended. Payment is made either via foreign credit cards or Cuban foreign currency accounts (called MLC, “moneda libremente convertible”, freely convertible currency in Cuba). The company lists more details about vehicle importation on a new subpage on the subject.
On March 1 of this year, Cuba had facilitated commercial car trade. Under “Decree 83,” the sale of new and used vehicles to both state-owned and private companies, cooperatives and foreign firms was made possible at wholesale prices, which includes commercial vehicles such as heavy trucks and buses. In addition, all economic actors have since been allowed to trade among themselves in vehicles of all kinds.
This article was first published on Cuba Heute, a German-language news portal.