Cuba Uses Oxen and Wood Stoves to Combat Fuel Deficit

Some cement factories have decreased production and a steel company in Havana temporarily stopped producing.

Oxen used in sugarcane transport in Cuba is nothing new. Photo: Getty Images

From Cubaencuentro

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba is replacing tractors with oxen, using wood instead of gas in some state bakeries and suggesting that Cubans take advantage of daylight to save electricity, amid severe fuel shortages due to the tightening of US sanctions, reports the Reuters agency.

The Government says it is prioritizing delivery of the little fuel it has to essential services, such as hospitals, and tourism sectors that generate foreign exchange. In other areas, they are looking for alternatives or cutting work schedules. President Diaz Canel said the “temporary” measures would not affect the country’s economic growth projections.

Some cement factories have decreased production, said the Minister of Construction. Meanwhile, a steel company in Havana temporarily stopped producing, one of its workers told Reuters.

Supervisors of two large hotel construction sites in the capital said workers outside the city were ordered to stay home due to lack of transportation. The crews were reduced to one shift instead of two or three.

Other branches of the state sector, the dominant in Cuba, have also told their workers to stay in their homes until further notice, due to the drastic cuts in public transport.

“If they don’t need me at this time, I would rather not have to fight to take a bus full of people, especially given this heat,” said Rosario, 32, who preferred not to reveal her last name. Her company sent her home but with her full salary.

Some state offices, universities and schools have simply reduced hours to save electricity and provide some relief to public transportation.

The Cuban government said it did not get enough fuel for September due to the tightening of sanctions from the Trump administration on oil shipments from Venezuela to the Island.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel said that this situation is “temproary” and not a return to the crisis that Cuba suffered in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said that enough fuel shipments have been secured for October.

Pavel Vidal, a former economist at the Central Bank of Cuba, now a professor at the Javeriana University of Cali, Colombia, said that Cuba’s centrally planned economy allowed the government to “orient the few resources it has to the government’s essential priorities.”

Many Cubans fear that the government is preparing for the economic situation to remain serious or worse. Díaz-Canel argues that Cuba could learn from energy efficiency measures and should try to maintain some once the crisis ends.

“It is simply not clear how things will improve given the uncertain circumstances,” said Pablo Ramirez, 57, while waiting in the line at a gas station. “It’s very tiring and frustrating,” he said.

The Government has been implementing austerity measures since 2016 due to a decrease in oil shipments from Venezuela and the tightening of US sanctions against Cuba, although nothing as severe as the most recent measures.

“We have adopted measures such as including about 4,000 teams of oxen in the work of sugarcane and food production,” Julio García Pérez, president of the state sugar monopoly Azcuba, told state media.  It was not clear whether those oxen were already working or were in reserve at some undisclosed locations.

[Editor’s Note: Back in April, General Guillermo García Frias, 91, and director of Cuba’s National Flora and Fauna company, said production experiments were underway for the islanders to begin eating meat from ostriches, crocodiles and the jutia (banana rat) as a way to resolve one of the Cuban economy’s never-ending headaches: shortages of basic food products, such as meat, milk and eggs. There is no word thus far as to how many Cubans are being able to enjoy the new delicacies.

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One thought on “Cuba Uses Oxen and Wood Stoves to Combat Fuel Deficit

  • 4,000 teams of oxen, means 8,000 oxen. Where could you get that many animals on short notice? How would you move them from one part of the country to another, with no transportation? How would you feed them when I have heard about food shortages? This makes not sense at all.

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