As Washington punishes Cuba for supporting Venezuela, Cubans are replacing tractors with oxen and petroleum with firewood
On a muggy morning in eastern Havana, a bus crammed with more than 100 sweaty passengers pulls in to a bus stop. The doors open and more passengers press in before- inch by inch- the hydraulic doors groan shut, slowly shunting the new arrivals inside.
” All the buses are coming like this”, said Roberto Lopez, 66, on his route- thumbs traversed- to buy biscuits in the city centre.
Bus services throughout Cuba ought to have slashed in recent weeks as the island grapples with acute petrol shortages caused by US sanctions which target companies and oil tankers transporting Venezuelan petroleum to the island.
Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said the island is currently operating with 62% of the petrol it needs, and announced emergency measures to” disrupt the plans of imperialism “. Across the island, production has been cut and stopgaps procured, so that ga can be prioritized for hospitals, schools and food distribution.
Oxen have replaced tractors in sugarcane fields; some bakeries are using firewood to power their ovens. Transport inspectors have been deployed to ensure that anyone driving a vehicle which belongs to a ministry or state enterprise gives fellow citizens a lift.
At the Alamar textile factory- and in offices and mills throughout the island- all machines and illuminations are switched off between 11 am and 1pm. Taking her extended lunch transgres, Aimee Machu, 52, said the US wants to stem the flow of oil to” extinguish the flame of communism “.
” It they cut the power in my house it’ll be torture ,” she giggled, adding with mettle:” But if we have to go through power cuts again, we’ll do it .”
” We’re Cuban ,” her colleague Rita Castro, 60, laughter.” We’re used to this !”
Despite its myriad problems, the Cuban economy has proved resilient when times get tough, according to Pavel Vidal, a former economist at the Cuban Central Bank who now teaches at the Javeriana Cali University in Colombia.
” In normal conditions, Cuba’s centrally planned economy obstructs economic growth, progress and innovation ,” he said.” But in times of crisis, having a plan to assign resources where they are needed is an advantage .”
The collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry- the result of years of mismanagement, incompetence and, more recently, US sanctions- has ensure its oil shipments to Cuba slump, from more than 90,000 barrelsa day four years ago to about 40,000 today.
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