Call me a cab

   Cuba this month encouraged owners of private cars to apply for the first new taxi licences to become available since 1999. Recipients will be allowed to set their own rates up to maximums determined by a state commission, according to an Associated Press report.
   This latest small step to a free-market system is meant to improve transportation, particularly in rural areas, the government says. Of course, with many (most?) private car owners already offering rides to their countrymen for payment, it’s also an attempt to regulate this sector of Cuba’s mercado negro.
   Probably because few of the AP’s American readers will ever visit Cuba, the report doesn’t mention that these new cabs, like most existing taxis, will be officially off-limits to foreigners. Only a few, higher-priced taxis (including Havana’s coco taxis) are allowed to pick up tourists.
   But if you are looking for a better deal, you might be able to find an, er, unofficial taxi. Ask around.

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