14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 1 April 2017 — Rumors of a general rise in prices have sharpened shortages at gas stations this Saturday, with long lines of vehicles waiting their turn at service stations across the country.
The fuel sold at preferential prices for thousands of state employees has gone up 0.10 CUC in recent hours, but the Cuba-Petroleum Union (CUPET) maintains for the moment the prices for other customers: 1 CUC For diesel and regular gasoline, and 1.20 for premium, which has been missing for several days.
The most alarming rumors say that as of April 1 private users, except those who have rented a car from a state agency, will only be able to buy regular gas
With no official announcements, everything moves at the level of rumors and conjectures. The most alarming rumors say that as of April 1 private users, except those who have rented a car from a state agency, will only be able to buy regular gas, and in no case can they buy special high octane fuel.
“They told us there were regulations but we did not get any written information or anything,” a gas station worker at 24th and 23rd in Vedado told 14ymedio.
“There is no premium gasoline, not even for rental cars,” he says. The rental cars are mainly used by foreign tourists and Cuban emigrants who return to visit the country. “They must present the rental agreement in order to buy the product,” says the employee, but “right now they will have to buy regular gasoline because that is the only thing there is.”
In Havana, drivers come with jars and bottles and all kinds of containers to store fuel. “Hard times are coming,” said Ricardo, a private taxi driver who can’t get over his surprise. “When it finally seemed that this country was going to be on track, then look what happens,” he tells this newspaper while pointing out in the official press the news coming from Venezuela.
The driver spent six hours on Saturday in front of the Cupet service station at the corner of 25th and G in Havana waiting to refuel. His greatest fear is that there will be return to “those years of the Special Period when all of Cuba was paralyzed by lack of fuel.”
The alliance with Venezuela, promoted since Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, finally relieved the energy shortage on the island. Caracas has been generous with the delivery of black gold to the island and in the best moments delivered up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for medical services, sports coaches and a great deal of support from Cuba’s state security forces advising and operating in Venezuela.
But the times have changed and analysts agree that the oil quota has decreased by between 40% and 60%. This reduction negatively influenced Cuba’s economy last year, with the GDP declining by 0.9%. The recession awakens the worst ghosts of the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
The national production of crude has also failed to take off. According to data from Cupet, the country extracts some 4 million tons of heavy oil, which is mainly used for electricity production
The national production of crude has also failed to take off. According to data from Cupet – the state-owned fuel company – the country extracts some 4 million tons of heavy oil, which is mainly used for electricity production. Cupet estimates that crude oil reserves of about 20 billion barrels exist in the Cuban Gulf of Mexico, although the US Geological Survey suggests a lower figures.
The government expects that, by the year 2030, 24% of the country’s energy will come from renewable sources, but first it needs new infrastructure and the investment of foreign companies in the sector.
Hours before midnight on Friday the anguish grew among the drivers. The service stations cut off sales to adjust the machines and to program the new prices for the so-called “magnetic card affiliates,” a group of state workers who receive the fuel at preferential prices among whom are doctors and military.
The informal fuel market is supplied with the thousands of liters that are diverted each day from those with “magnetic cards” and are resold to other drivers. Authorities are trying to stop this flow and since March 31, it is forbidden for “affiliates” to carry a container for gasoline.
But the least of the problems is the rise of the privileged tariffs or the deficit of premium gas, more expensive and therefore exclusive to a few. What keeps the population on edge is that many gas stations are totally empty, with no product for sale. “This is more and more like the past,” Ricardo said minutes before getting his turn at that pump.