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Charcoal cooking, week-long queues for gasoline: Fuel shortages slam Cuba’s countryside

Published:Thursday | May 25, 2023 | 9:31 AM
Rosa Lopez lights a charcoal stove to boil sweet potatoes and prepare scrambled eggs with tomatoes for her grandchildren amid a gas shortage in Mariel, Cuba, Thursday, May 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

MARIEL, Cuba (AP) — Rosa López, a 59-year-old housewife, lit a charcoal stove to boil sweet potatoes and prepare scrambled eggs for her grandchildren.

The gas cylinders she normally uses to cook her meals have not been available for almost two months in Mariel, a port town west of Havana.

Not far from there, on the highway to Pinar del Río and under a scorching sun, Ramón Victores spent one week waiting in line at a gas station, hoping to fuel up the 1952 red Chevrolet he uses for work, moving produce from one town to another.

Cuba's most recent fuel shortage has crippled an already fragile economy, but it is hitting rural villages particularly hard, with residents resorting to coal fires to cook their food, scrambling to find transport to take them to work and spending days — and nights — at the gas station waiting to fuel up.

The Associated Press visited a dozen villages in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque, to the east and west of Havana, to talk to people about how the fuel shortage is affecting their daily lives and what they're doing to dodge yet another crisis.

With food and medications already in short supply amid an economy that was severely hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the end of the country's two-currency system and a tightening of United States sanctions, the lack of fuel and cooking gas is perceived by many Cubans in the island's countryside as the last straw.

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