Want to catch a cab in Havana? Good luck. Longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro had a particular hatred for private taxis and their drivers, whom he accused of seeking “juicy profits” and buying up the state-subsidized gasoline that his country “had sweated and bled” to obtain. No new taxi licenses have been issued in Cuba’s capital since October 1999, prices are set by the state, and license renewal fees are high.
But in January, the Cuban government took a surprising step, announcing that it would loosen up the rules, even going so far as to let taxis set their own rates in the city. Rates are still capped, and the number of licenses will be determined by local officials, but it’s a pretty big step for Cuba, where nearly all aspects of commercial life are state-controlled. The decision is a small sign that the new president, Raul Castro, may be relaxing his brother Fidel’s communist policies.
Connecticut taxi drivers haven’t been so lucky. A few large companies dominate the market in the state, and independent taxi drivers are routinely denied licenses after a long wait. “More than half are rejected in part because they were unable to prove their business was necessary,” Robert McNamara of the pro-market Institute for Justice told WTNH-TV in Hartford. “Imagine if we required a restaurant to prove that a town didn’t have too many restaurants before they were allowed to open a new one.”
In February, Connecticut drivers rallied to get the state laws changed. That’s one advantage they have on their Cuban brethren: Try a stunt like that in Cuba, and you might wake up in prison.