Díaz-Canel announces new austerity measures as US sanctions bite

Cuba’s President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has said that emergency measures are being introduced to address the acute fuel shortages caused by the Trump administration’s efforts to block oil shipments to the country.

Speaking on the flagship Cuban television programme, Mesa Redonda on 11 September, Díaz-Canel said that for the rest of the month the country would have to survive on the remaining fuel available and two further supplies due this month. He noted, however, that shipments for October were guaranteed.

In his remarks, which may presage greater long-term austerity, he said that this would mean that some products and services will not be available. While the aim was to avoid blackouts, he said, if they do occur, they will “not be as long nor as intense of those of the Special Period” following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I can assure you that we have a strategy to succeed and the Yankee administration will not achieve its aim of disheartening the Cuban people and much less vanquishing it,” Díaz-Canel told television viewers. 

Observing that the government was now in constant negotiations to ensure the supply of fuel, he exhorted all Cubans to contribute to greater energy efficiency. Cuba’s President then went on to reassure Cubans that the diversification of the country’s economy and the worldwide alliances that had been established meant that Cuba was better able to withstand US economic aggression.

In his remarks he said that the Washington was blaming Cuba for the Administration’s failure to remove the Venezuelan government. It had in response, he said, “implemented a genocidal plan with the objective of hurting the Cuban family in their basic needs” in order to “generate demotivation and complicate the fabric of the country”.

“We want, clearly, to emphasize the importance of the moment, which requires us to strengthen the patriotic sense of national unity, and the spirit of resistance and victory that has always characterised us,” Díaz-Canel said.

Stressing that Cuba was not alone, he noted that the country’s principal foreign investors remained in place. Mentioning Venezuela, Russia and the European Union by name, he said that Cuba had alliances with many nations and blocs around the world. He however made clear that the economic situation now facing Cuba will mean greater austerity.

Speaking on the same programme about what the country’s President had described as “short-term measures” to cope with “an all-out economic war”, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl García, the Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, and the Minister of Transport, Eduardo Rodríguez, described the implications of the actions the Cuban government. These would they said involve prioritising and restricting the consumption of diesel fuel for public transportation and reducing or ceasing the manufacture and processing of products in non-essential sectors.

In doing so, Gil warned that Government’s decision to focus on ensuring basic services to the population would result in lower economic productivity and could mean some state investment projects may have to be paused. He said however that the country’s investments in computerisation, transportation, and tourism, would be maintained.

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