While Cuba Runs Out of Fuel, Four Tanker Trucks Arrive at Esther’s Gas Station Over Three Days

Paraguas has received four fuel trucks since February 1, a real prize. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 3 February 2024 — Few gas stations in Havana escape the fuel crisis that prevails in the country, stirred up by the postponement of the new rates for its purchase. Among the exceptions are Los Paraguas and Corral Falso, the two gas stations managed on Telegram by Esther Lilian Pérez Trujillo, the organizer of the line, “by decree” of the government of Guanabacoa.

Judging by Esther’s reports to the group members of both gas stations, Los Paraguas has received four tanker trucks of gasoline since February 1, a lot compared to other gas stations in the capital, like the San Rafael in Central Havana, which didn’t have any to sell this Saturday.

“One thousand five hundred eighty five gallons of premium gas and 1,849 of regular” arrived at noon. This newspaper was among the first summoned to Los Paraguas, at 1:00 in the afternoon. Few cars waited in line, close to the scheduled time, but the tension was still in the air.

“Is it coming today or not?” asked a customer. “We are on the list and have to buy but the tanker truck hasn’t arrived yet,” he explained to an employee at the gas station. The Cupet trucks, like ships loaded with water and food that are sighted by hungry castaways, were photographed along their way, and people passed on the information of their whereabouts on Facebook.

List in hand, Esther’s lieutenant sat on a plastic chair next to the starting point of the line. (14ymedio)

“One already went by, I think it was going to La Rotonda,” said the troubled driver of a Lada who was waiting in line at the Los Paraguas gas station when he saw a truck with the Cupet logo heading along the Via Blanca in the direction of the other service center. The drivers lined up on a street next to the pumps where the road was once covered with asphalt but now has only potholes, piles of stones and dust. The entrance to Los Paraguas itself is full of puddles of accumulated water, and the vehicles must bypass the holes to access the refueling area.

On a motorcycle, punctual and with camouflage pants, one of Esther’s lieutenants appeared at 1:00 in the afternoon. List in hand, she sat in a plastic chair next to the starting point of the line and finally began the sale.

The desperation to obtain fuel has been gaining strength in recent days, not only because of the political ups and downs and the fear of the implementation of a price increase, but also because of the possible deterioration of the weather that has been announced for the next few hours, which has the people of Havana running in search of supplies to cope at home until the storm passes.

The black market, where one can buy a bottle of cooking oil the same as a washing machine, hurried its transactions this Saturday but was hanging by a thread on the supply in the gas stations. “The kitchen is here, listening to the conversation, but we can’t take it away until the courier manages to fill the tank of the truck,” an informal seller with a wide assortment of appliances explained to a customer.

The drivers lined up in a street next to the pumps where asphalt once covered the road. (14ymedio)

This Saturday, in addition, the Electric Union predicted a deficit of 800 megawatts for the night, which will translate – as has been happening for several days – into long blackouts. A litany of breakdowns keeps the National Electric System in check, according to the official media, including the breakdown of unit 6 of the thermal power plant of Mariel, unit 3 of Santa Cruz and unit 2 of Felton. In addition, there is maintenance being done on three other units in Mariel, Santa Cruz and Cienfuegos.

The new rates for the purchase of fuel, which were already listed this Wednesday at the gas pumps, were removed after the announcement that “a virus from abroad” had destroyed the computer system of Cimex.

“The Cimex de Gaesa corporation was dropped from the entire management system, and they had no backup. They are doing  a general inventory to be able to have some control,” said Cuban influencer Manuel Milanés at the time. This newspaper toured several gas stations to take the pulse of the incident, and the question was: “What’s wrong with these people?”

The response came this Friday, when the official press reported that they had rolled the heads of three ministers, including the one of Economy, Alejandro Gil. This unforeseen “movement of cadres” was survived, however, by two leaders who have a lot to do with the energy debacle: Vicente de la O Levy, Minister of Energy and Mines, and Eduardo Dávila, the Minister of Transport.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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