Faced with economic and food shortage crisis, Cuba ramps up rationing

In the midst of a growing economic and food shortage crisis – in which Cubans are having to line up for hours to purchase basic food supplies in supermarkets – the Cuban government has introduced comprehensive rationing of staple products.

Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that the rationing would immediately begin nationwide, forcing cashiers to limit product quantities such as cooking oil, powdered milk, sausages, peas, chicken, eggs, rice, beans and soap it can sell to individual shoppers.

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General food stores in the nation of 11 million are owned and operated by the Communist government, and every citizen has issued a ration book to purchase fundamental needs – a system that was introduced after the revolution sixty years ago. A ramp-up of the rationing has taken place from time to time throughout financial hardships but is typically not introduced in all parts of Cuba.

Those who run in more affluent circles are permitted to purchase more than the average Cuban. However, recent months have seen a sharp decline in the number of basic goods available to stock the shelves.

Moreover, Cuba – which leans on importing more than 65 percent of its food products – has also led to a battle to pay for such imports.

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And while Velázquez had pointed the finger at the Trump administration’s tightening of the trade embargo in recent years, which has hit the country hard financially, analysts and economists, too, have underscored that much has to do with the debacle in neighboring Venezuela.

A poster showing late Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, former president and now leader of the Communist Party, and the headline reading "The thriving and victorious revolution goes on" hangs inside a subsidized state store, or "bodega", where Cubans can buy basic products with a ration book they receive annually from the government, in Havana, Cuba April 10, 2019. The other photographs show late rebel heroes Camilo Cienfuegos (C) and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. REUTERS/Fernando Medina

A poster showing late Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, former president and now leader of the Communist Party, and the headline reading "The thriving and victorious revolution goes on" hangs inside a subsidized state store, or "bodega", where Cubans can buy basic products with a ration book they receive annually from the government, in Havana, Cuba April 10, 2019. The other photographs show late rebel heroes Camilo Cienfuegos (C) and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. REUTERS/Fernando Medina

As the catastrophe-gripped country has had to cut two-thirds of the state-operated oil shipments it once exported to Cuba at a subsidized rate, Cuba is now struggling with a fuel-for-power shortage. It is also dealing with a lack of hard currency given there is limited fuel to be sold on the open market, according to the Associated Press.

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Diaz also leveled criticism at the island’s “hoarders,” who she accused of both stockpiling items they feared would become unavailable or re-sold on the black market as a means to make ends meet.