Cuba overwhelmed by power cuts

Cuba overwhelmed by power cuts

DAY

Power cuts in Cuba, which have become daily since May, exasperate the inhabitants who sometimes take to the streets to protest.   

The government denounces the maneuvers of the “counter-revolution”, while the opposition sees in these power cuts “its best ally”. 

< p>“People can't stand the heat anymore, they go out at night in the street, on the balconies, waiting for the electricity to come back” to turn on their fans, Estrella Ramirez, 62, who lives in Bauta, told AFP. 29 km from Havana. 

Recurrent power cuts had been the trigger for the historic protests that rocked the country on July 11 and 12, 2021 with tens of thousands of Cubans taking to the streets to cries of “We are hungry”, “Down with the dictatorship”.

A year later, under the scorching heat of the Caribbean summer, other protests, on a smaller scale, were recorded in several localities in the interior of the country. 

On July 14, in Los Palacios, a town of 38,000 in the west of the island, several dozen residents took to the streets to protest a blackout, some banging on pots. 

“Turn on the power, dammit!”, “We don't want any talk,” shouted residents, according to videos posted on social networks.

According to independent media, similar demonstrations took place on July 21 in Jagüey Grande, in the province of Matanzas (west), as well as in the villages of Caibarién and Sagua la Grande, in the province of Santa Clara (center). /p>

President Miguel Diaz-Canel accused the protesters of acting on behalf of the “counter-revolution” and “according to the will of those who subject us to the embargo”, in an allusion to the U.S. embargo in effect since 1962.

But for the moderate dissident, Manuel Cuesta Morua, these cuts are now the “best ally” of the opposition to communist power. “This brings back to life the criticisms of the opposition on the obsolescence of the” Cuban economic model, he told AFP. 

“These are the structural consequences of the incompetence of the government and it gives an opportunity to express (…) the accumulated social malaise,” he says.

This type of protest is highly unusual on the island, where nearly 700 participants in the July 11 protests are still imprisoned, some of whom have already received heavy sentences. 

“ Fatigue level»

Power cuts are not new in Cuba. In the 1990s, during the “Special Period” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's ally, blackouts could last up to 4 p.m. 

But “there was not this accumulated political rejection, there was not this level of weariness that exists today”, explains the Cuban sociologist Rafael Hernandez, in an article published by the Center for Latin America and Latin Studies, from the American University of Washington.

“There are currently no cuts until 4 p.m. as in 1993-1994, but their impact is much greater, as we 'saw July 11,' adds the researcher. 

Until now less affected, Havana will now suffer three times a week power cuts of four hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.), announced Friday the governor of the capital, Reinaldo García Zapata, quoted by the official newspaper Tribuna de La Habana.

According to official figures, 68% of Cuban households cook with electricity. However, load shedding takes place during peak consumption when people are preparing food. 

In Jesus Menéndez, a village in the east of the country, the cuts last between eight and ten hours each day. “A lot of people cook with electricity. How do they do? They use coal or kerosene when they find it,” Gisela Gonzalez, a 54-year-old housewife, told AFP by phone. “understanding” and “saving” energy in the face of a situation that has no “immediate” solution. 

According to the public company, the National Electric Union (UNE), 95% of energy production in Cuba comes from fossil fuels, mostly imported. The rise in world prices has increased the cost of these imports by 30%. 

At the same time, of the 20 power stations in the country, 19 are over 35 years old, admitted the government which, faced with the maintenance work and repeated breakdowns, has little room for manoeuvre. state television Edier Guzman, a UNE official.