| HAVANA, March 30
HAVANA, March 30 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
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
"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
"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)