Friday, March 31, 2017

Hit by Venezuela shortage, Cuba to restrict premium gasoline sales

Hit by Venezuela shortage, Cuba to restrict premium gasoline sales
PUBLISHED: 00:03 BST, 31 March 2017 | UPDATED: 00:03 BST, 31 March 2017
By Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA, March 30 (Reuters) - Cuba will stop selling premium grade
gasoline except to tourists starting Saturday due to a fuel crunch
affecting Venezuela, its oil-rich ally and key trading partner.

Cuba's leadership has yet to announce the measure publicly, but a
government source confirmed the contents of an official memo that has
circulated on social media outlets this week.

The memo has already been "sent by official means to those implicated,"
said the source, who was unauthorized to speak to about the matter and
requested anonymity.

Cuba has become increasingly reliant on Venezuela for refined oil
products, even as the latter wrestles with shortages of those products
at home. Last week, Venezuela faced its first nationwide shortage of
motor fuel in five years.

The OPEC nation has one of the world's largest crude reserves but must
import components for motor fuels and products crucial to dilute its
extra heavy oil. Payment delays to providers have delayed deliveries.

Cuba cannot easily replace Venezuelan supplies as these are subsidized
and the Communist-ruled island is strapped for cash.

Most vehicles in Cuba, including its vintage American cars and
Soviet-era Ladas, use regular fuel. But modern cars, belonging to state
and joint ventures as well as diplomats and other foreigners, run on
higher-octane, so-called special fuel or premium.

"CUPET will not be delivering special fuel throughout April," said the
memo, circulating on social media.

"The special fuel remaining in stock at the gas stations from April 1
will only be sold ... to tourists, until the inventory is depleted,"
added the memo, using the acronym of the state oil monopoly CubaPetroleo.

One diplomat based in Havana said embassy workers had been advised to
stock up on special fuel now and to carpool.

"Special fuel is going to disappear," said Victor, a worker at a gas
station in the business district of Vedado. "We have a small reserve
left, but we aren't supplying any."

The government memo suggested motorists replace premium with regular
grade fuel. But a worker at a joint venture, which received the memo
through official channels, said an auto service provider had recommended
against using regular in its Mercedes-Benz cars.

"It is bad for the engines," she said. "But what can you do, if there is
no special fuel?" (Additional Reporting by Marc Frank in Havana and
Marianna Parraga in Houston)

Source: Hit by Venezuela shortage, Cuba to restrict premium gasoline
sales | Daily Mail Online -

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