HAVANA – Starting April 1, Cuba will restrict the sale of premium gasoline to tourists who have rented cars, a measure not yet made public and which comes at a time when Venezuela has slashed its exports of crude to the island due to shortages at home.
According to an internal memo to which EFE had access, the state-run Union Cuba-Petroleo (Cupet) company, responsible for supplying fuel to the Caribbean country, will start April 1 to substitute regular gasoline for premium in cars that usually consume the higher quality fuel.
Premium gas remaining as inventory at Cupet gas stations after April 1 will only be sold for cash to tourists until it runs out, the memo said.
The fuel company, the note added, will not provide premium gasoline to state companies to which it has been allocated, and which must instead use regular gasoline in proportion to its former premium allocation.
In order to assure compliance with the new regulations, the magnetic cards used by state companies to purchase premium gasoline will be deactivated, even though they are prepaid.
The sale of regular gasoline for cars rented by tourists will also be authorized, something that up to now has not been permitted.
These regulations have not yet been announced by Cuban media, all state-run, so that it is not known whether the measures will be extended after the month of April or if the current supply of premium gasoline will be replaced when it runs out.
Restrictions on the sale of premium gasoline come at a time when the country is seeking an alternative fuel supply, now that the amount of subsidized crude from Venezuela, which it has received since 2003, has been reduced from 100,000 barrels a day to 55,000 due to shortages in that country.
The island, which in 2016 suffered a recession for the first time in 23 years with an economy that dropped 0.9 percent, hopes to relaunch its oil-prospecting projects with the aid of foreign capital, so as to reduce its energy dependence on other countries, which currently amounts to almost 50 percent.