HAVANA, AUG. 29 -- Cuba, citing a shortfall in Soviet oil shipments of nearly 14 million barrels and a surge in world oil prices due to the Persian Gulf crisis, today announced drastic nationwide fuel restrictions and energy-saving measures.
In a package of cuts published by the official newspaper Granma, the Communist government halted the start-up of a new oil refinery built with Soviet aid and said it will stop production at one of the country's three operating nickel plants.
The measures were the harshest yet introduced by the authorities to offset disruption of the island's economic lifeline from the Soviet Union, its main political ally and trading partner.
Granma said the country is moving toward a so-called "special period in time of peace" -- the government's term for measures designed to cope with Cuba's economic troubles. It called on Cuban farmers to increase the use of draft animals instead of vehicles to pull carts and plows.
Daily distribution of diesel fuel and gasoline to state companies is to be restricted immediately. Gasoline distributed to the state sector through coupons will be cut back by 50 percent for the rest of the year, the statement said. Gasoline supplies to private vehicles would be reduced by 30 percent from October onward.
Justifying the tough measures, the government said vital supplies from the Soviet Union, which account for more than 70 percent of Cuba's imports, had fallen behind schedule. Soviet shipments to Cuba of crude oil and oil products, originally due to total about 94 million barrels in 1990, are nearly 14 million barrels short so far this year.
Granma added: "Our country does not have available convertible-currency funds to seek this fuel from other sources, much less at this moment when oil prices have doubled because of the gulf crisis."
The statement said industries, farms and the public must reduce electricity consumption as much as possible. It called on each Cuban family to cut its monthly electricity consumption by 10 percent. If this target is not achieved, it said, authorities will be forced to shut off power at peak hours one day a week. Families who exceed the limits could have their electricity cut off for as long as 30 days.