Cubans Increasingly Anxious About Gas Shortages Under Trump Sanctions Against Venezuela

May 5, 2019
Originally published on May 5, 2019 1:14 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now let's go to Cuba and NPR's Carrie Kahn. She's in Havana. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tough new sanctions to try and induce Havana to withdraw its support of Maduro. What are those sanctions? And what kind of effect are you seeing there?

KAHN: Top of the list of the sanctions is that Americans can now sue foreign companies in Cuba that they say are profiting or using their properties that were seized during the Cuban revolution. And we've already seen a couple lawsuits being filed in Miami about that. What the Trump administration is hoping is that will scare away foreign investment from Cuba.

And they've also targeted the amount of money that people from abroad - family members - can send to Cubans in Cuba. They've limited that to $1,000 every three months. That's a drastic cut in the remittances - the money family members send back to Cubans.

And they've also cut visas, too. It used to be you could get a five-year visa to go in and out of the United States. Now they've limited that to three months.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cuba and Venezuela are very closely linked economically, in addition to ideologically and politically. So is the deterioration in Venezuela of the economy affecting Cuba?

KAHN: I think what to look at closely is oil, and oil here on the island. Cuba has - is not able to meet its own energy demands by itself and has become very dependent for the last 20 years on Venezuela's cheap oil that they're sending to Cuba. What they've done is made an exchange where Cuba gets the oil that it needs, and then Cuba sends doctors and professionals to Venezuela. And that has been severely hurt by the economic crisis in Venezuela right now. And you see that in there's gas rationing right now, and the Cuban government trying to get as much as they can in dollars and foreign currency.

One thing that they've done - you know those classic U.S., American cars that are still here on the island? Well, those taxi drivers are feeling the pinch of the gas shortages and the oil situation right now. They have to pay very high licenses. This is new only in the last couple months. And they have gas rationing cards that they can only buy a certain amount of gasoline every month.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Raul Castro has actually come out and warned that hard, austere times are coming. Are Cubans concerned about what they might be facing?

KAHN: Definitely. And you hear that a lot.

He did. That was a - quite an interesting public declaration for Raul to come out and say that. And he said it's not going to be as bad as after the collapse of the Soviet Union - what they called the Special Period, where Cuba saw a lot of food shortages and a lot of blackouts and energy problems at the time. But he is warning that more austere times are coming.

And you hear that from people because there are huge lines right now. People are waiting hours in lines to get basic foodstuff. There are shortages of chicken, shortages of cooking oil. People are just very worried about their future right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Havana. Thank you so much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.