Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 10.03.12

Hialeah business supplies spare parts for Cuban autos

Drivers in Cuba who need to keep their cars running look to Hialeah for

hard-to-find spare parts.

By Juan Carlos Chavez

Fernando Sardiñas uses his weekends to work as an illegal taxi driver in

Havana. He does it in his loyal but beaten up Moskvich, a car from the

Soviet era that continues running thanks to the ingenuity and creativity

of its owner. But also thanks to the spare parts Sardiñas manages to

find through a friend who frequents a business on the other side of the

Florida Straits.

The business is located at about 229 miles away from Sardiñas' house —

in Hialeah. Here, at the epicenter of exile, a creative and able

entrepreneur of Russian-Cuban origin, Fabián Zakharov, implemented an

idea that not only has surpassed his expectations but has also opened up

wide-range, mid-term possibilities.

"It came to mind when we needed to get a part for one of those little

cars, a Lada 1600," said Zakharov, a 38-year-old electrical engineer. "I

found the part, and someone sent it to him in Cuba."

Zakharov lived in Russia with his parents during his early childhood.

Then he went back to the island and finally ended up setting up shop in

South Florida six years ago.

The beginning was complicated. Zakharov could have found a job

associated to his profession or perhaps pursue another career. However,

fate and the necessities of the Cuban auto-parts demands took him on a

different path.

"The most extravagant thing they have asked me is to bring a complete

Lada," Zakharov said from his shop at 552 Hialeah Drive. "But we work

with spare parts that can be adapted mainly to models of the 1990s and

the 2000s."

Zakharov acknowledges that the need for original spare parts for

automobiles in Cuba, like the classic Lada and Moskvich, has been

growing as the economy on the island has tightened.

In an attempt to downsize bureaucracy and improve productivity in state

resources, the Cuban government announced a labor reorganization. The

government also ordered the gradual layoff of hundreds of thousands of

workers nationwide, 10 percent of the workforce. Another million state

workers could be laid off in the next few years.

In the context of the economic adjustments, there are openings for

foreign capital as well as expanding self-employment in dozens of


Cuban-Americans who travel to Cuba to visit their families take spare

auto parts and other needed items in their luggage. Others hire

specialized agencies that can use a recently established direct and

regular maritime shipment of merchandise, a first in the 50 years of a

U.S. embargo against the island. The service allows transporting

merchandise that Washington categorizes as "humanitarian aid," which

includes medicine and clothes, electric appliances and furniture, even

construction material and automobile spare parts.

Zakharov has increased gradually the size and type of spare parts

available for his Cuban clientele and customers in Latin America and

Europe. His inventory includes Aleko parts, as well as cylinders, brakes

and complete kits to repair Lada engines for models 1600, 2105 and 2107,

among others.

"We have paid for three containers from Russia to Miami and are working

on the fourth one," Zakharov said. "We are analyzing opening another

shop in Miami because there is ample demand."

According to Cuban-American exiles and residents who send packages to

family and friends in Cuba, the auto-parts service provides an exchange

that favors Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Luis García, who lives in Southwest Miami-Dade County, said that he is

renting various Lada cars in Havana. A couple of them recently needed

transmission maintenance, which required a kit of original spare parts.

"In Cuba, we talk about a scarcity of parts that, when you find them,

they charge the price they want," García said. In that context, he added

that a carburetor could cost $150 in Miami while in Havana it can easily

reach a price of $230.

Disney Serras started in this line of business three years ago. Serras

is the owner of MZParts Miami, 5706 W. Flagler St., which sells spare

parts for automobiles and motorcycles. He focuses on the sale of parts

for Lada, Jupiter and MZ, Java and Karpaty. His business is regularly

visited by clients who need a part right away.

"I started out with something really small," Serras said. "Our initial

inventory was $300 and now we handle more than $500,000. This should

give you an idea of the existing demand."

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