Cuba Joe Biden Rep. Pic
The 715,000 oil barrels could supply Havana's refineries for a little over a month JF Martin/Unsplash.

Cuba is set to receive its first oil shipment from Russia in a year as the country grapples with a deep economic crisis that includes persistent blackouts and food shortages.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the Island will receive over 700,000 barrels of crude on Friday. The government hopes to use them to quell some of the unrest that has embroiled the country over the past month, with the largest protests seen since 2021.

The 715,000 oil barrels could supply Havana's refineries for a little over a month and analysts expect it to continue flowing at a pace of a tanker a month, which could help to address the country's persistent shortcomings on this area.

The outlet added that both countries signed a deal last year that aimed at alleviating some of Cuba's woes, but "it's been off to a slow start as Vladimir Putin's government prosecutes its war in Ukraine."

Cuba has always been heavily reliant of Russia, and the combination of its own economic crisis and Moscow's focus on the war have compounded to a crisis that is considered the biggest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Lack of support from Venezuela, which has reduced its own oil deliveries, has added to the crisis. And while Mexico has been donating some 25,000 barrels a day, it's facing domestic pressure to start charging for them given the fact that Pemex, the country's state-run oil company, is facing an economic crunch of its own.

Cuba implemented a 500% oil price increase in March, while the price of electricity also increased by 25% for the country's biggest consumers. Authorities have also ordered that tourists pay for fuel in foreign currency.

According to official estimates, the Cuban economy shrank by two percent in 2023, while inflation reached 30 percent. Independent experts say this is likely an underestimation.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has accused the U.S. of stoking the protests, calling the country "interventionist" and saying it has "contempt" for Cubans. He argued that the country's decades-long blockade of Cuba is the main reason for the current crisis.

Miguel Diaz-Canel
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel AFP

U.S. State Department's spokesman Vedant Patel, in turn, called the accusations "absurd" and added that the unrest "was a reflection of the dire situation on the island."

In this context, Russia is getting more involved in the country, with trade between both growing and some 100 Russian companies starting operations in the island over the past year, Bloomberg added. "Russian tourism surged 340% in 2023 — more than any other nationality, aided in part by the island's rollout of the Mir payment card issued by Russia's central bank," reads a paragraph of the outlet's report.

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