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Cuba is mired in power cuts

Cuba is mired in power cuts

The blackout in Cuba, which has been a daily occurrence since May, has angered residents who sometimes take to the streets to protest.

• Read also: Cubans express anger over power cuts

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The government denounces the “counter-revolution” maneuvers, while the opposition considers these burdens to be the dumping of its “best ally”.

“People can’t stand the heat anymore, they go out at night on the street and on balconies waiting for the electricity to come back” to excite their fans, Estrella Ramirez, 62, who lives in Bota told AFP. 29 km from Havana.

Frequent blackouts were the cause of the historic demonstrations that rocked the country on July 11-12, 2021, with tens of thousands of Cubans taking to the streets chanting “We are hungry,” “Down with the dictatorship.”

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

On July 14, in Los Palacios, a city of 38,000 in the west of the island, dozens of residents took to the streets to protest power cuts, some banging pots.

According to videos posted on social media, residents shouted “Turn on the power, damn it!” We don’t want any confusion.

According to independent media, similar demonstrations erupted on July 21 in Jaguy Grande, Matanzas province (west), as well as in the villages of Caibarín and Sagua la Grande in Santa Clara province (central).

President Miguel Diaz-Canel accused the protesters of acting in the name of “counter-revolution” and “the will of those who subjected us to embargo,” a reference to the US embargo in force since 1962.

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But for the moderate opponent, Manuel Cuesta Moroa, these cuts are now the “best ally” to oppose communist power. “This repeats the opposition’s criticism of the outdated Cuban economic model,” he told AFP.

He says, “These are the structural consequences of government inefficiency, and they provide an opportunity to express (…) the accumulated social malaise.”

This type of protest is very uncommon on the island, where nearly 700 participants in the July 11 demonstrations remain in prison, some of whom have already received harsh sentences.

Blackouts are not new in Cuba. In the 1990s, during the “special period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s ally, blackouts could last up to four in the evening.

But “there wasn’t this accumulated political disapproval, there wasn’t this level of fatigue that exists today,” explains Cuban sociologist Rafael Hernandez, in an article published by the Center for Latin American and Latin Studies, of American University in Washington.

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

So far less affected, Havana will now suffer three times a week a four-hour blackout (between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm), the capital’s governor, Reinaldo García Zapata, announced Friday, citing the official Tribuna de newspaper. Havana.

According to official figures, 68% of Cuban homes cook with electricity. However, load separation occurs during periods of peak consumption when people are preparing to eat.

In Jesus Menendez, a village in the east of the country, the cuts last eight to 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.

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President Diaz-Canel has asked his countrymen to “understand” and “saving” energy in the face of a situation that has no “immediate” solution.

According to the public company, the National Electricity Union (UNE), 95% of Cuba’s energy production comes from fossil fuels, most of which is imported. Higher world prices have increased the cost of these imports by 30%.

At the same time, among the country’s 20 power plants, 19 are over 35 years old, the government admitted, which faces frequent maintenance and breakdowns, and has no room for maneuver.

“The emergency that the electricity system is going through will continue and the recovery process will be gradual,” Eder Guzman, an official from UNE, admitted recently on state television.