Mass transportation in Cuba, for many an incurable headache, could be relieved of its precarious situation, when a bus assembly plant the Brazilian consortium Marcopolo plans to build in the island becomes operational.
At present, the Cuban government meets the needs of passenger transport with Chinese and Russian buses, but the remoteness of the producers is making Cuba to invest in domestic productions to avoid the recurrence of crisis in this sector.
According to Oscar Romero Matos, export director of Marcopolo, the investment project has been in negotiations for a year with the Cuban company Caisa and should start at the beginning of 2014 through the first export of parts and components to assemble some 150 buses.
"Initially, we would send to Cuba these buses in parts to the assembly factory in Guanajay, and we plan to gradually incorporate components produced in Cuba, say structures, fibers and glass," Romero Matos said.
This project is not going as fast as previously thought due to funding problems. "On the technical side we are more advanced, then we are still lacking the other part, the financial one, so we are waiting for the granting of a credit line by Brazilian banks," he said.
Despite the support received from the government of Rio Grande do Sul in terms of promotion and intergovernmental relations, this Marcopolo project doesn’t qualify due to its large scale among potential recipients of microloans (up to five million dollars), issued by the state bank for encouraging investment in Cuba.
The output of this plant may revive mass transportation in Cuba, which undergoes a marked deterioration, due to low technical availability of the vehicle fleet.
Such is the case of the Cuban capital, where there are working only about 450 "guagas" of the 900 existing in August, according to official reports from the Ministry of Transport, for at least one million people dependent on this means of transportation on any given day.
Experts say that the cyclical crises of mass transportation in Havana are caused by the deterioration of the buses, the lack of spare parts, engines unable to withstand the pressure of hundreds of thousands of travelers amid the torrid summers.
Cuban Minister Cesar Arocha recently announced the arrival in January of about 100 Chinese buses to palliate "most problems in urban transportation of passengers" in Havana, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.
With plants in nine countries in addition to the three in Brazil, and an annual production of about 32,000 buses, Marcopolo is among the world leaders in this sector.