Fear Grows of a Possible Return to the Special Period / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

A gasoline station in Havana between 23rd and Infanta in Vedado. (14ymedio)
A gasoline station in Havana between 23rd and Infanta in Vedado. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 4 July 2016 – Along with high temperatures, summer has begun in Cuba with cuts in electricity consumption in state facilities, a gasoline shortage in the capital’s gas stations, and a fear of the return of the Special Period. According to sources consulted by 14ymedio, authorities have informed Communist Party militants and some unions of a possible return of the hardships of the nineties if the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is forced to leave power.

According to a source who has requested anonymity, a document circulating in collective law firms since last month recommends preparing for an increase in crime due to “economic problems and the arrival of more travelers to the country.”

This Sunday, the signs of an economic slowdown were already felt with the shortage of regular gasoline in most of the service stations managed by the Fuel Marketing Company (Cupet) in the capital. At least 17 of 20 gas stations visited by this daily demonstrated a deficit of fuels.

A Cupet employee said by telephone that there is a “shortage crisis,” although the official press has not made any reference to the matter. The worker denied that the lack of gasoline was due to an imminent price reduction, as rumored days before among the populace. “How are they going to lower the price if there is none?” she admitted.

Cuba receives subsidies from Venezuela valued at approximately 10 billion dollars a year, including 66% of the petroleum that is consumed on the Island.

With the drastic reduction that oil prices experienced in the international market, Cuban consumers have waited months for a reduction of gas prices in the retail market. Currently a liter of regular gasoline sells for 1 CUC, while the same amount of special grade hovers at 1.2 CUC.

The shortage of regular gasoline was repeated this Sunday at the Cupet in Ciudad Deportiva on Via Blanca and Pizarro streets, and at the gas station known as El Principal in the Boyeros district, and also at the establishment on Ayestaran Street. At others, like El Forestal at Independence Avenue and Santa Catalina, only special gasoline is sold at the moment, the same as at the El Nuevo business on Porvenir Avenue in Lawton.

“All morning from one place to another looking for regular gasoline, and it’s lacking,” protested Omar Suarez, 58 years of age and driver of a Russian-make Moskovich auto. The driver pointed out that such a thing “has not been seen since the years of the deep Special Period” and complained about having to buy special gasoline, which is more expensive and not “of the quality that they advertise.”

The fuel scarcity has come with cuts in the working hours of state facilities as a savings measure, together with stricter rules against entities that exceed their electricity consumption quota. The meat market in the Plaza Carlos III center was closed several days last week with only a counter at the door for the sale of yogurt, chicken and sausages.

“We can’t keep the place open and all the refrigerators running because we would be spending more than we earn from sales,” says one employee. “The warehouse is almost empty, and it doesn’t pay if we don’t have merchandise to put on the shelves.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel