Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba to increase rationing amid shortages

Cubans queue for products in a state shop in Havana Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cubans have posted online about the problems using the hashtag #lacolachallenge, or queue challenge

Cuba has announced rationing of more products amid shortages it blames on the US trade embargo and hoarders.

There have been hours-long queues for basic foodstuffs in recent weeks on the Caribbean island.

People have posted photos of long waits at the supermarket under the hashtag #lacolachallenge, meaning queue challenge.

A universal rationing system was introduced on the island just after the revolution in 1959.

In 2017 US President Donald Trump reimposed some trade and travel restrictions lifted by his predecessor Barack Obama, although he kept the embassy open in Havana and did not end flights to the country.

But less aid from ally Venezuela has also led to shortages of essentials - as has a drop in exports - leaving the Communist-run island struggling to pay for imports.

Cuba brings in up to 70% of its food from abroad. Numerous agricultural reforms in recent years have failed to boost production.

Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz said supermarkets will now restrict how much people can buy of certain products like chicken and soap, while other items - including rice, beans, eggs and sausage - will only be available on the ration card, and limited to a monthly amount.

"Our mission is to fracture all the measures the US government imposes, and today we are setting priorities," she said.

But Ms Díaz also blamed Cubans who hoard products for the shortages, saying some people kept items they felt might disappear from the shops while others resold goods on the black market.

Journalist Yoani Sánchez tweeted that what was once of the best-stocked shops in the city had "turned into a battlefield to get a kilogram of frozen chicken".

In April, 91-year-old Cuban revolutionary Guillermo García Frías suggested Cubans could eat ostriches, crocodile and edible rodents known as jutía amid the shortages, prompting a flood of memes mocking the commander's suggestion.

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