The streets of Havana are quieter than usual -- many of the rattling old cars the city is known for stand idle amid Cuba's worst fuel shortage in years.
"This is infernal!" exclaimed 59-year-old Lazaro Diaz, a private delivery driver, after queuing an entire day for gasoline. Without luck.
Queues snake for kilometers (miles) around fuel stations in the capital of the communist island suffering its worst economic crisis in three decades worsened by biting US sanctions and a tourism slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The dearth of fuel, which started end-March, is felt in all sectors and economic classes.
Everything from concerts to baseball games have been postponed or canceled -- including, authorities said Tuesday, the upcoming May Day rally in Havana's Plaza de la Revolution.
The event usually draws thousands -- largely traveling by bus -- to the square from all over the city. Instead, smaller events are being organized among Havana's various neighborhoods.
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A university in the capital and four in other provinces have had to cancel in-person lectures this week with students and professors unable to get to class.
Thousands of other workers have taken to working from home. But many do not have the option.
Diaz, for example, depends on his motorbike to support his wife, children and grandchildren.
"I don't have fuel, I can't work," he told AFP, smoking as he leaned against a wall in the intense afternoon sun.
"I cannot make a living standing in a queue," he added.
In a country that is no stranger to shortages of basic commodities, many Cubans say this is the worst they have experienced.
Used to long queues for food and medicine, Cubans also have to deal with frequent power interruptions.
For now, many of Cuba's 600,000-odd cars -- for a population of 11.1 million people -- are not going anywhere.
"It has been the most critical" shortage yet, said Edgar Sanchez, a 43-year-old volleyball coach who cannot make it to work because his Soviet-era Lada has run out of gasoline.
"We are not fuel producers, we depend on the world," he told AFP after seven hours in another fruitless queue. Like many others, he blames US sanctions in place for more than 60 years for Cuba's economic ills.
In mid-April, President Miguel Diaz-Canel admitted it was not "clear" how the country would "get out of this situation."
Countries that supply Cuba with fuel have had to cut back due to a "complex energy situation" globally, he said.
The president did not name the countries, but Cuba relies heavily on fuel from ally Venezuela.
Diaz-Canel said Cuba could count on less than 400 tons of fuel per day, compared to the 500-600 tons it needs.
According to Energy Minister Vicente de la O Levy, available fuel was being rationed to avoid a situation of "zero supply."
Jorge Pinon, an energy policy expert at the University of Texas, told AFP: "The problem is that Cuba does not have money, cannot pay cash for oil."
Instead, it supplies Venezuela with workers such as teachers and doctors in a barter system.
Venezuelan oil supply to the island nation nevertheless dropped from about 100,000 barrels per day to 57,000 on average in 2021, said Pinon.
That figure stayed constant throughout 2022 and in the first quarter of 2023.
Cuba itself produces about 40,000 barrels, and last year also received "three or four shipments of crude oil" from Russia, the expert said.
Algeria provides some fuel "from time to time," according to Pinon.
Reserved for tourism
Rationing was the only way to ensure the country has a critical fuel supply in the months to come, said the analyst.
The government is prioritizing income-generating activities especially the tourism sector -- the engine of the Cuban economy.
One fuel station in Havana has been reserved for vehicles with a "T" license plate indicating involvement in tourism, where rented cars and tour buses can secure the fuel they need, though not even they can avoid the infernal fuel lines.
Cubans have created multiple WhatsApp groups to share information about fuel availability.
There are groups for all sectors: drivers of taxis, private or company cars, even diplomats share tips on the best ways to avoid queues as motorists monitor tankers arriving at the port of Matanzas -- one of the main fuel distribution centers on the island.
The one-party government has said the shortages would likely continue at least throughout May.