Cuba’s State Fuel Company Attributes the Shortage to a 65 Percent Increase in Demand

In the Cupet gas station at 31st and 18th, in the Havana municipality of Playa, for example, the line of vehicles reached 42nd street this Wednesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 28 March 2022 — The Cuba-Petroleum Union (Cupet) justified this Saturday the shortage of gasoline and diesel by the 20% increase in consumption in March compared to January and February. The statement from the state monopoly adds that the demand grew up to 65% last week, which led the authorities to ration fuel in several provinces.

The oil company wanted to “update” the situation and affirmed that the “affects” have been reduced by more than 60%, but that availability will continue to be “complex,” officialdom’s euphemism for scarcity. Five days ago there were problems in 350 service stations, 26% of the total, according to the note, but Cupet and its workers are making an effort – “with the special motivation of the company’s 30th anniversary” – to restore stability in the service.

Users, however, have not seen the situation clearly, since the statement talks about a problem that is not resolved without detailing what the problem is. In the comments to the note in Cubadebate, the company has responded that the shortage has been due to several causes, including the already known one of reinforcing the electric generator and that “in the face of uncertainty, consumption has increased.”

Some users have noted that in recent days there have been rumors of all kinds about fuels, from that it was going to be marketed in dollars to that the price is going to rise or, of course, that the supply problems are aggravated by the global crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow. This accumulation of circumstances would have made the population fearful and triggered sales, although there is no shortage of people who mention hoarding.

Many commentators have lamented that the gas station workers commit irregularities in the sale and sometimes say that there is no fuel, and then they sell it ’under the table’, and other times they fill more than what is established in exchange for a bribe, in addition to charging improperly or being closed in hours when they shouldn’t be. In all these messages, Cupet has disregarded and asks complaints be directed to Cimex, which is responsible for the gas stations.

Cupet says in the note that thanks to the help “of the fuel distribution cars of the Organisms of the Central State Administration” they have been able to ensure 15% of the distributed volumes, filling between 30 and 50 daily teams.

But the messages on Cubadebate insist on supply problems that not only continue today but go back a long time. “I don’t know of other places, but the gas stations in the municipality of Mayarí, in the province of Holguín, have never had fuel, neither before nor after those inconveniences they speak of. There has been a shortage here for a long, long time,” says one commenter on social media.

“Well, I’m working and in Viñales there hasn’t been a special for more than 3 days. There isn’t in Los Palacios or Soroa either,” says another.

“I have acquired a gasoline electric generator, marketed in MLC [freely convertible currency] by the Cimex chain in Camagüey. When going to get 10 liters of gasoline from the Servicupet there is an directive that the sale in containers is not allowed and the only sale is allowed to motorcycles or vehicles. I don’t have a motorcycle or a car. I would like someone from Cimex to tell me what to do in my case, where do I go, who do I complain to, what do I do with the generator that cost me quite a lot and now I can’t use it,” protests another.

There are also those who have complained that the standardization mentioned in the note has not reached their locality. “The 60% is in Havana because here in Perico, Matanzas, five days ago not a single drop of gasoline was sold to individuals, only to rental and state cars.”

The breakdown in the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in the country, together with that of Mariel, which burned down on March 7, are part of the origin of the crisis experienced with fuel in the last week. The authorities affirmed that the exit of the plants from the National Electric System forced fuel to be rationed to ensure the public transport service and fill the generators, which are high consumers of gasoline. This could also spark fear in the population who prepared to fill their tanks.

However, the problem, as the comments to the note demonstrate, goes back a long way and already in 2019 it manifested itself with great crudeness when the US sanctions on Venezuelan oil were increased, making it difficult to send quantities from Havana’s main partner to the Island. This reduced availability, which had already diminished due to the crisis in Venezuela and its great drop in oil production in the last twenty years.

Cupet assured this January that the national production plan had been fulfilled in 2021, good news because it had been in decline for a decade. But no data was given on the amounts extracted or what the forecast was. Osvaldo López Corso, Cupet’s head of Exploration, said that the drop in the last ten years was around 3% to 7% per year.

Jorge Piñon, a Cuban expert in energy policy at the University of Texas, has told Agence France Presse that the drop is 20% compared to 2010 and the supply of crude oil and fuels from Venezuela exceeded 100,000 barrels per day, in 2016, with “an average last year of 56,000 barrels per day.”

Cuba uses domestic crude oil (44%) and its accompanying gas (8%) to generate the electricity it needs for the economy and domestic consumption, according to the authorities themselves. The largest deposit is in a strip located between Havana and Varadero, where 99% of the oil comes from, although they have been prospecting for years and seeking outside help to locate others.

It is estimated that Cuba can produce 22 million barrels a year, a tiny amount compared to the 130,000 barrels a day (47+ million a year) it needs for consumption.


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