Business & Economy

Cuba slowly grinding to a halt as fuel crisis deepens

By Laura Becquer

Havana, Apr 26 (EFE).- Cancelation of the May Day parade, suspension of in-person classes at some universities, and the accumulation of garbage due to delayed pickups are some of the visible manifestations of the fuel shortage gripping Cuba.

Long lines at gas stations started appearing weeks ago, and recent days have seen large crowds gathered at bus stops as the vehicles are running less frequently.

“The fuel situation determines the announced modification,” the head of the CTC labor federation, Ulises Guilarte, said on informing Cubans that instead of the parade in Havana, International Workers Day will be celebrated with small-scale local events.

Excluding the Covid-19 pandemic, this will be the first time since 1994 that Cuba, one of the world’s handful of Communist-ruled countries, will not mark May Day with a massive spectacle in the Plaza de la Revolucion.

The crisis is beginning to affect the already precarious food supply, as lack of transport is preventing deliveries of fresh produce to farmers’ markets.

“We managed to ship the winter (harvest) and now they tell us that the government will give us fuel, but we don’t know how much nor how it will be distributed,” Lazaro Guerra, who has a family farm in the capital region, told EFE.

Another concerned farmer, Leonel Capote, took to Twitter to complain that growers can’t plant crops with fuel “and at this time, there is none.”

“On top of that, without fertilizer, without pesticides, without supplies,” Capote added.

The crisis, particularly the uncertainty about when things will improve, is spurring greater discontent among a population that has suffered through more than two years of scarcity, surging inflation, and frequent blackouts.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel said that the problem is due to the failure of Cuba’s main fuel suppliers, Venezuela and Russia, to meet their commitments to the island as they contend with a “difficult energy situation.”

Cuba imports almost all of its petroleum and uses most of it to generate electricity.

Normally, the president said, Cuba receives 500-600 tons of crude per day, but daily volume is down to 400 tons.

Energy and Mines Minister Vicente de la O said subsequently that the shortages will continue until at least next month and that authorities are rationing fuel to “guarantee vital services.”

At the same time, he spoke of a tendency toward “improvement based on decisions, on things that are being negotiated, on suppliers that are now fulfilling their commitments.”

The minister also pointed to the obstacles thrown up by the economic embargo the United States has maintained against Cuba since 1962.

“It makes it very, very hard for us to be able to obtain ships to transport the fuel, seek the financing, and comply with the requirements of fuel contracts,” De la O said.

Motorists, who are limited to 5 liters (1.32 gal) of fuel per purchase, have created WhatsApp groups to share information about which stations have fuel and the length of the lines.

Cuba last experienced acute fuel shortages in 2019, when the US, under then-President Donald Trump, took steps that disrupted Venezuela’s oil exports.

During that period, Diaz-Canel said the shortages were temporary and ruled out a return of the dark days of the “special period,” brought on by the end of subsidies from Moscow following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. EFE lbp/dr

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