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Cuban government defends plans to either cut rations or increase prices

An American classic car makes its way down a street in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 11, 2023.
Ramon Espinosa
An American classic car makes its way down a street in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 11, 2023.

The Cuban government said Friday it will have to either increase prices for fuel and electricity, or reduce rations for basic supplies.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel said such difficult measures were needed for difficult times, after the minister of the economy said Cuba's economy contracted between 1% and 2% this year, and inflation ran at about 30%. There were problems in the tourism industry — Cuba's main source of income — and in farm production.

"This is a question of complicated measures, as complicated as are these times," Díaz-Canel said. "I emphatically deny that this is neo-liberal plan against the people, nor a crusade against small businesses, nor an elimination of the basic market basket" that Cubans can get with government coupons.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said that because of economic problems, the government will have to raise prices for gasoline, electricity and gas, or reduce the amount of food and other basics contained in government ration books.

The remarks came in appearances at the closing sessions of Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power, effectively Cuba's congress.

The economic crisis in Cuba has already pushed hundreds of thousands of people to leave in a bid to reach the United States. Long lines at gasoline stations had gotten shorter recently, but the news of possible price increases could prompt a rush to fill up.

"Since they spoke (in congress), I haven't been able to get gas yet," Alberto Corujo, a 54-year-old driver, said as he waited in a long line at a gas station in Havana.

Mercy García, a secretary at a state-owned business, said times were indeed tough.

"The situation is very hard for people of all social levels, because wages don't keep up and prices have gone through the roof," said García.

Visits by tourists are still only at 64% of the level in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. Sugar production was down, and the government had to import food.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]