Cuba’s rural towns hit hard by fuel -News

MARILLE, Cuba — Rosa López, a 59-year-old housewife, fires a charcoal stove to cook sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs for her grandchildren. In Mariel, a port city west of Havana, the gas cylinder she usually uses to cook has been out of supply for nearly two months.

Not far from there, on the highway to Pinar del Río, under the scorching sun, Ramón Victores queued at a gas station for a week, hoping to fill up the 1952 red Chevrolet he used to work, moving produce from a Towns shipped to other.

Cuban recent fuel shortage It has crippled an already fragile economy, but it has hit the countryside especially hard, with residents cooking over coal fires, scrambling to find transport to get to work and waiting days and nights at petrol stations to fill up.

The Associated Press visited more than a dozen villages in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabec, east and west of Havana, to talk to people about how fuel shortages are affecting their daily lives and what they are doing to avoid another crisis.

Food and medicine are already in short supply, the end of the country’s two-currency system and tightening of monetary policy amid an economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic US sanctionsMany Cubans in the island’s countryside see a lack of fuel and cooking gas as the last straw.

Lopez, a housewife in Mariel, has been cooking with coal and firewood since the government stopped selling gas cylinders more than a month ago. Now, a coupon system organizes deliveries of valuable cooking gas, but López, who’s 900th in line, isn’t sure when she’ll get one.

Rosa Lopez lights a charcoal stove to cook for her grandchildren amid a natural gas shortage in Mariel, Cuba, on May 18, 2023. Ramon Espinosa/AP

About 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Maril, on the road to Pinar del Río, a group of small vehicles joined a queue of tractors and other agricultural equipment at a gas station waiting their turn to refuel, many of them Waiting up to a week.

Manuel Rodríguez, a 67-year-old gardener, queued for four days to get his battered motorcycle pumped. But instead of just needing 3 liters to fill it up, he came up with an ingenious way to take advantage of the 10-liter maximum capacity allowed per user: He strapped a 10-liter plastic fuel tank to his blue On the frame of a motorcycle, admitting that this contraption may not be the safest way to travel.

“It’s a little dangerous,” he said as he showed off his invention. “But it works!”

Lack of fuel also makes it harder for residents of small villages to go to work and move around neighboring towns. María de la Caridad Cordero, a 58-year-old teacher in Güines, Mayabeque province, was waiting for a bus to visit her brother in Jagüey Grande.

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

Finally, after standing on the side of the road for two hours, waving money in an unsuccessful attempt to lure the odd driver to pick her up, she and a dozen other villagers hopped on a yellow school bus that stopped abruptly.

Back in Mariel, Lopez and her family said they found temporary relief on a small plot of land where they built a coal stove and grew some fruit and vegetables. However, some basic food items are still difficult to obtain.

“There’s no cooking oil in the cellar,” she said. “Hopefully we can get some tomorrow.”

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