A fire in a Cuban oil storage facility has killed, injured, and displaced Cubans and exacerbated the country’s energy crisis. Crucial aid efforts have been impeded by US sanctions.

By Natalia Marques, The People’s Dispatch

On August 5, a major oil storage facility was struck by lightning in the Cuban province of Matanzas, injuring 121, killing one, and leaving 17 firefighters missing. 5,000 people have been evacuated from the surrounding region.

A fire burns in Matanzas, Cuba, with onlookers in the foreground

The fire in Matanzas, still blazing as of August 8, is the largest in Cuban history. This fire will only exacerbate the energy crisis in Cuba, which has been racked with high fuel costs and aging infrastructure. Yet US anti-blockade organizations claim that existing US policies make providing humanitarian aid extremely difficult.

Despite the US Embassy in Cuba claiming that “US law authorizes US entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba,” activists say that existing US policy severely restricts any aid to Cuba.

“Right now, the biggest impediments to both Cuba’s relief, but also recovery in the future, continue to be the US’s unilateral sanctions, the blockade, the fact that Cuba continues to be on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, despite engaging in no way or form in any of this,” People’s Forum co-executive director Manolo De Los Santos told Peoples Dispatch.

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