Drivers Sleep in Trucks Waiting for Fuel in Cuba

Diesel needed for vehicles is being diverted to generate power
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2022 2:10 PM CDT
Drivers Sleep in Trucks Waiting for Fuel in Cuba
Drivers wait their turn to fuel their vehicles at a gas station in Havana on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Dany Pérez had spent four days in a line of vehicles waiting to fill his truck with diesel he needs for the 560-mile trip from Havana to his home in eastern Cuba. Taxi driver Jhojan Rodríguez had been waiting at another station even longer—it was nearing two weeks—but he was finally near the head of the line of hundreds of vehicles in the Playa district of the capital. Such lines have become increasingly common in Cuba, where officials apparently have been sending scarce diesel fuel to power generation plants rather than fuel stations for vehicles, the AP reports. It's not the first time the island has suffered fuel shortages, but it's one of the worst.

Pérez, 46, has been eating and sleeping in his 1950s-era Chevrolet truck, which he had outfitted to haul some 40 passengers. Drivers in the lines have tried to organize by creating lists of those waiting and updating them daily as tanker trucks bring fuel. That lets those who live nearby go home for spells—keeping track of progress through a WhatsApp group. "My home, my family depend on this diesel," said Rodríguez, the 37-year-old owner of a gold-and-white 1954 Oldsmobile whose worn-out gasoline engine at some point had been replaced with a diesel. The car had run out of fuel, and Rodríguez had to push it into the line. That was 12 days earlier. Authorities say drivers can fill only their tanks, not other containers. For Rodríguez, that's 16 gallons, which he said will last him three days.

The shortage largely affects diesel—used by heavy vehicles and classic cars whose original engines were long ago swapped out, often with Eastern European truck engines. Rodriguez expressed frustration at the lack of clear explanations from officials. "If at some point there was information that, 'Look, there is no fuel because the situation of the country requires it to give electricity to people,' I would understand." Experts said that's pretty much it: The country can't afford to buy all the diesel it needs, and what it has is being directed to generate power. "Venezuela has not been sending Cuba the quantity of diesel it needs, so Cuba has had to take part of the supply that was dedicated to the transport sector for the diesel electric generation groups," said an expert at the University of Texas in Austin. Perez said he might have to sell his car and leave the country. "I am going to keep struggling because I can't stop working," Pérez said at the station east of central Havana, "but if there's no (fuel), we will have to park it."

(More Cuba stories.)

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