Cuba facing acute fuel shortage due to U.S. sanctions

HAVANA, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Cuba must implement emergency measures to stave off an acute fuel shortage in September caused by the Trump administration’s “perverse” efforts to block oil shipments to the country,

President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Wednesday.

The Caribbean’s largest island will have to make do this month with the little fuel available now, plus supply from a ship that arrives on Saturday and another at the end of the month, Diaz-Canel said in a roundtable discussion on state television.

He said all shipments for October were already guaranteed.

The Trump administration has tightened the decades-old embargo on Cuba in what it says is an attempt to get the Communist government to reform and drop support for Venezuela’s embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro. That has included fresh sanctions on vessels and firms involved in oil exports to the island.

Economy Minister Alejandro Gil said in the roundtable that in the short-term, as the embargo bites, the government is focusing on ensuring basic services to the population at the cost of lower economic productivity, which could mean investment projects would have to be paused for a few weeks.

Public transport, as well as transport of goods to market, were already being affected by the shortage of fuel, Diaz-Canel said. There was also a risk of blackouts but the government would announce them ahead of time, he said.

The president exhorted all Cubans to contribute to greater energy efficiency. Workers with state cars should offer rides to others and those who could work from home should do so.

Diaz-Canel assured Cubans the crisis was not a return to the economic depression of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, because the economy was more diversified now and Cuba had alliances with countries worldwide.

Tourism remained strong despite increased U.S. restrictions, for example, he said. (Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)