Pandemic, sanctions, and long lines for fuel; Cuba battles concerns over supply and rationing

Updated: Mar 23, 2022, 12:02 AM(IST)

Cuba's capital Havana faced hours-long lines of people waiting at gas stations on Monday in the wake of reports of rationing of fuel in at least one province amid a crippling economic crisis that has already caused food and medicine shortages across the island.

'Distribution issues'

In the Matanzas province, Geobel Quintero, program coordinator for the government, confirmed that rationing had begun on Sunday but downplayed the situation, explaining that the shortfall was primarily due to distribution issues.


This is a temporary problem

"This is not a consequence of a fuel deficit in the country," Quintero told state-owned provincial newspaper Giron. "This is a temporary problem."

In the report, Quintero stated that Transcupet, which provides fuel to the country's service stations, had only 62 per cent of its delivery trucks in operation. The report cited logistics issues as the reason for the slow distribution.


A never-ending problem

There was little gas and diesel available at stations in Havana on Monday after news of the rationing spread fast through the neighbouring province.

"I´ve been here since 7 this morning and now its 11:30, four hours," said Jorge Paez, 53, a self-employed worker waiting in a nearly kilometre-long line to fuel up his Soviet-era motorcycle and sidecar. "This is a situation that repeats itself every three months ... and the problem is never resolved."


US to blame?

A request for comment was not immediately responded to by the Cuban government.

Cuban officials have in the past cited the decades-long US embargo and more recent, severe sanctions under former US President Donald Trump as the reasons for making foreign fuel imports to the island difficult.


Double trouble; Sanctions and a pandemic

Jorge Piñon, a professor and energy policy expert at the University of Texas at Austin, says Cuba's ailing fuel supply is also a result of declining domestic production, limited refining capacity, and its reliance on Venezuela, which is experiencing production problems of its own.

Meanwhile, the long lines reflect the deepening economic crisis caused by fresh US sanctions in 2019 and worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic.


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