Coal cooking, weekly lines for oil: Oil shortages destroy Cuba

MARIEL, Cuba — Rosa López, a 59-year-old housewife, turned on the charcoal stove to cook potatoes and prepare eggs for her grandchildren. The gas cylinders used to cook have been empty for two months in Mariel, a port town west of Havana.

Nearby, on the highway to Pinar del Río in the hot sun, Ramón Victores spent a week waiting in line at a gas station, hoping to warm up the red 1952 Chevrolet he used for work, moving produce from town to town. with it. someone.

Cuba’s recent oil shortages have strained an already struggling economy, but are also taking a toll on rural communities, where people are turning to coal fires to cook. foodscrambling to find transportation to take them to work and spending days – and nights – at gas stations waiting for fuel.

The Associated Press visited a dozen villages in the districts of Artemisa and Mayabeque, east and west of Havana, to talk to people about how the lack of fuel affects their daily lives and what they are doing to prevent another crisis.

With food and medicine already in short supply amid an economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the end of the country’s two-currency system and the tightening of US sanctions, the shortage of oil and cooking gas is seen by many. Cubans in the countryside on the island as the last straw.

López, a housewife in Mariel, has been using coal and wood to cook her meals since the government stopped selling gas cylinders last month. The current coupon system is set to bring in the premium cooking gas, but López is number 900 in line and isn’t sure when he’ll be able to get his hands on one.

About 50 kilometers east of Mariel, on the road to Pinar del Río, a small group of trucks joined a long line of tractors and other farm equipment at a gas station waiting for their turn, and many were waiting. up to a week.

Manuel Rodríguez, 67, a gardener, waited four days in line, hoping to refuel his motorbike. But instead of filling up on just three liters, he came up with a clever way to take advantage of the 10-litre per person limit: He attached a 10-litre plastic tank to the frame of his motorbike. , accepting interference may not be the best way to go.

“It’s a little scary,” he said of his discovery.

The lack of fuel is also making it difficult for people living in small villages to go to work and travel to neighboring towns. María de la Caridad Cordero, a 58-year-old teacher in Güines, Mayabeque province, waited for a ride to Jagüey Grande to see her brother.

“If I don’t find anything by noon, I’ll just go home and try again tomorrow, or the next day,” he said.

Later, after two hours of standing on the side of the road, unsuccessfully waving money at occasional drivers to pick him up, he and a dozen other villagers jumped into a yellow school bus that suddenly stopped.

In Mariel, López and his family said they found temporary relief on a small plot of land where they built a coal stove and grew fruits and vegetables. However, there are essential nutrients that are difficult to obtain.

“There is no cooking oil at the bodega,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow.”

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