14ymedio, Alberto Hernández, Santiago de Cuba, July 1, 2021 — “I’ve been here since Thursday morning. It’s now Tuesday and I am still waiting,” complains one customer, a motorcyclist among a crowd of desperate riders hoping to fill their gas tanks at the La Cubana service station in Santiago de Cuba in front of Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba.
The situation became utterly chaotic on Tuesday when the city’s gasoline shortage suddenly worsened. “I spent the entire day on Tuesday, from six in the morning, at the station in Trocha. By five in the afternoon, I was still waiting,” says Jose Antonio, who rides a Suzuki motorcycle. “I’m seeing the same situation today but I won’t think about leaving until I can buy some gas.”
Motorcyclists are among those most affected. Without access to a reliable supply of gasoline, they cannot transport passengers or merchandise, their only source of income.
On February 1 the government imposed new taxes on fuels. Drivers with commercial licenses are allotted 160 liters of gasoline a month, a little more than five liters a day, at a cheaper price than other drivers pay. The measure has had no practical impact, however, due to ongoing fuel shortages.
“I still don’t have gasoline for work. There’s less than a liter in my tank and this is the only place in all of Santiago that has it,” laments Jose Antonio.
The shortage has caused fuel prices on the black market to skyrocket. “Over the weekend I bought six liters at 50 pesos a liter because I couldn’t get any after waiting in line at the Cupet station in Quintero,” says Alejandro, another commercially licensed motorcyclist who has been waiting in line with a 20-liter jug. “When gasoline is scarce, there’s no other option than to buy it on the black market at a premium. The seller sets the price he wants, depending on the demand, but generally it’s around 50 pesos a liter.”
Roberto, another motorcyclist, opts for the most expensive grade of fuel because it has been more readily available. But this resource is also about to run out. “I decided to get the B90. It’s a little more expensive but it’s easier to find than the B83, which is what most drivers use. But now you can’t find either. Authorities are prioritizing the B83 but it’s only for commercial drivers,” he says.
Neither the long line nor Tuesday’s heavy downpour were enough to dissuade the crowd from showing up at the gas station. They are not alone in their anxiety. The city’s population at large is being severely impacted by the fuel shortage.
Ana needed to take food to a sick relative and was trying to get to her destination as quickly as usual but that was impossible. “After waiting for forty-five minutes at Barca de Oro Park, a driver showed up. I asked him to take me to the provincial hospital. He said the ride would cost 50 pesos, 20 more than I normally pay for this trip,” she says.
“That’s how much I just paid for gas. If you notice, there aren’t any motorcycles on the street, much less motorcycles carrying passengers,” the driver told her. Ultimately, Ana did not have any choice but to pay what he was asking to get her to her destination.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.