Cuban-born Cuban-American journalist Danilo Rene Varela was among the first to realize that a VW beetle was actually a Ford Focus RS car.
A Volkswagen Beetle would be much easier to make than a Ford Mustang, which would take much longer to build, he wrote in his 2009 book The Volkswagen Beetle, a book that was eventually translated into English.
Rene was born in the Dominican Republic and went to a private school.
His grandfather, who worked for the Cuban government, was a Volkswagen Beetle owner.
When Rene became a journalist, he was invited to write for a newspaper in Havana, which had a very limited selection of imported cars.
One of the first things he did was to find an old Ford Focus in the garage.
Renes car was one of only two that the newspaper could afford to buy.
“I just thought, ‘Wow, I’ve got an old Beetle and I can make it!’
That’s when I started to wonder if I could build my own car,” Rene said.
“It took me a long time to make the Focus, because it was very difficult to build a Focus.
There’s no paint or wheels, and you can’t really change the color or make the interior a little bit different.
It had all these problems that you had to deal with.”
The Focus RS was a bit more complicated.
It needed a different engine, a different transmission, and the whole interior was new.
That took more than a year, and Rene never managed to complete the car.
The Focus was the last Ford car built in Cuba.
Renna Varel, a journalist for El Universal, wrote about the Volkswagen Beetle in his book and the Focus RS is a symbol of Cuba’s history of oppression.
Cuba is one of the few countries that still has no official press.
Only a handful of journalists still have access to the internet and few have access outside of their own families.
RENE VAREL: So it’s the last surviving car from the Ford Fiesta, the first car from VW that was built in Havana.
I have to ask you: How old is it?
CARLOS DE JASA: Well, it’s probably 80 years old, but I’m sure that the car is a bit younger than that.
[laughs] It’s definitely a bit older than that, actually.
It’s an old car, but not a very old car.
RENA VARELA: So you don’t have any history of working in Cuba, did you?
CAROS DE JASE: No.
I worked for three years in Cuba as a correspondent for the national newspaper.
I think my last day was in 2010, so I had been there since 1988.
But I didn’t have much contact with the country.
The only person I met who knew anything about the country was the president, Raul Castro, who was the general secretary of the Communist Party at the time.
He had been the head of the party at that time.
RENDA VARELE: That was the first time that I met him.
[laughter] He was very nice to me.
And then he invited me to the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., which was the main hub for all international relations in Cuba and I went there with a group of other journalists.
[laughing] CARLOS VARELL: You were the only one from the United States to come to Havana.
RENNA VARELV: Yeah.
I mean, I had the feeling that we were supposed to come and work, and then we would be able to make a living.
I did that, but unfortunately I didn, and that was the beginning of the end of my working life in Cuba for a few years.
RANA VARELS: You didn’t make a lot of money writing about the Ford Fusion, because Cuba has a lot more than just cars.
RANNA VARELES: Well yes, but that was because we weren’t making any money.
CARLOS RENA: Right.
And so I worked in a different field.
It was the car industry.
So I did a lot for the Ford Foundation, but then my wife and I moved to Miami and we had a house in Florida.
And we bought a new Volkswagen.
It wasn’t a Volkswagen, but a VW Bug.
RINA VAREl: That Volkswagen Beetle.
RONALD DE JESUS: That’s the one that was imported, but it was a very small car.
And I said to my wife, I don’t want to build that again.
But it was too much work, so we went to another company and got a new car.
CAROS RENA, RENA VARIELS, RON ADAM, and MARIA GONZALES: Yeah, so they were not very happy with that.
RANNIE GONZA: But I remember that day.
It happened in front of a bunch of friends, who were