The Ups and Downs of Cuba’s Gasoline Situation

People wait in line to be able to refuel their cars in Havana, Cuba, Monday, April 24, 2023. Cuba’s capital has been restricting fuel sales, threatening to further weaken an economy reeling from power blackouts and rampant inflation. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

By Francisco Acevedo

HAVANA TIMES – The gas crisis has returned to Cuba (again), like it did during that “temporary” period, remember? and anything that moves on four wheels is now stuck- which is practically the whole of Cuba, because if you don’t have your own car, you move around in your work car, or in the worst of cases on public transport.

A liter of gasoline can cost up to 1000 pesos (nearly half a minimum monthly wage) on the street during this crisis, which is a bit more severe than it has been this year, where filling up your gas tank is an odyssey anyway, but it’s even harder now with lines kilometers long that take you several hours, even all night, to see – without any absolute certainty – if the precious liquid comes in and lasts until your turn.

It’s been a few weeks now that fuel hasn’t been sold in quantities that satisfy state or private drivers’ demands. Illegal activities flourish like they do so many times in these situations, and lines aren’t respected if you can pay or use your interpersonal relationships.

In some cases, a “Government letter” is flashed to jump ahead, but the reality is that it’s an exasperating situation for anyone to keep their vehicle running.

Of course, the rope always snaps at its weakest point because collective taxi prices are shooting up every day, and don’t fall below 100 pesos for journeys within Havana; and these go up if you are traveling between provinces.

According to official information, only 20 gas stations in the capital are selling gas regularly right now, out of the 120 stations registered, and when it is available- although only four are selling diesel-, police are deployed around the clock, including the elite forces (Red Berets).

It goes without saying that TV reports on national TV are pointing the finger at peoples’ illegal activities, and not at the State, which is responsible for guaranteeing this product within this system. Traditionally speaking, they are the first to control but the last to take responsibility, because they own everything and are more responsible for everything than most anywhere else in the world, where you can buy anything from different suppliers, and everyone makes it their personal business to make sure that nothing is missing from their shop window.

It’s easy to blame the Cuban population when things get chaotic, like they always do, but this is the normal response to the crisis. If you have four cats and feed them normally then they’ll never have problems, but if you leave them without food and water for a few days, when you come in with food these calm creatures that caress each other every day will fight to consume as much as they can. Is this the cats’ fault?

Government media will never point their finger at the owner, they turn to the cats and begin to wonder why they are beating each other up, why they don’t organize themselves and take turns and politely wait for their turn, that it is the victims’ fault.

They never think about the cause of the crisis and merely talk about the US’ economic embargo, but if a blockade really was what the US Government wants it to be, not a single drop of gas would enter the island, and that has never happened, there are always ways to go around the embargo and get everything to Cuba, sometimes from the US itself, which has been the case with a lot of food products over recent years, including almost all of the chicken Cubans consume today.

If a thousand liters of gas can get to the country, then two million definitely can, but contracts with suppliers were either not met, weren’t paid on time, or they lacked the foresight to request a larger amount, or there were delays. In other words, there are lots of factors that come into play and none of them is the driver’s fault, who is waiting in line as you read these words.

Venezuela, Iran or Russia – there aren’t any other countries right now – haven’t been able to guarantee a basic supply, which is normal, because it’s not like we’re swimming in gas when things are normal, hardship is distributed instead.

Nor are Cubans trying to fill their tanks to blame for disorganization and a lack of information, but because no Cuban owns a gas station, things won’t change, and when supply “gets back to normal”, we’ll suffer a crisis again a few months down the line, because this is a structural problem. We will never see a Cuban citizen blaming our leaders on TV, the same people who were recently “elected” again in the National Assembly.

Lots of Cubans are even sleeping at gas stations, while others come and buy a space in line for 1000 pesos, while the authorities fail to control the situation like they should. Of course, they continue to sit in their comfortable offices with air conditioning and their car with a tank full of gas waiting for them in the car park, and the rabble are left to organize themselves. The Government’s response is the same: low availability, but nobody takes the blame.

When I wrote this we were hours away from May 1st, and we could see people mobilizing in every municipality in the country for the big parade, and lots of them wouldn’t come walking. However, in the end, the parade was cancelled for smaller localized events, some of which were postponed due to heavy rains.

This is the next part in this horror movie, with hundreds of sequels, and we all know how it ends, but we don’t know how long it will go on for.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

2 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs of Cuba’s Gasoline Situation

  • May 3, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    It is widely accepted that the the most basic responsibility of government to it’s people is to provide security. Cuba fails to provide food security, health security and now, it appears, energy security. If the failure of the Putin dictatorship is any indication, I would bet that militarily, the Castros are up short in maintaining their military as well. Think about it: if you don’t have the fuel to satisfy the civilian demand, you probably are unable to sustain a military response to an enemy invasion for very long. If this is the reality of the Castro dictatorship, why keep up the pretense? The time has come for the Castros to leave town, peacefully if possible.

  • May 2, 2023 at 5:12 pm

    The end of the final sentence says it all!

    “but we don’t know how long it will go on for.”

    That describes not only fuel shortages, but the Communist dictatorship itself!

    Those Cubans who remain in Cuba – over 100 flee to capitalist countries each and every day, having sold their miserable homes to obtain some money – are hungry and existing in penury. They used to have hope, but all that now remains, is despair. If only they could know how long that will “go on for”!

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