Cuba registers occasional protests against blackouts a year after large demonstration


A little over a year after historic demonstrations against the regime, Cuba has again registered occasional demonstrations, driven by popular dissatisfaction. Although in much smaller proportions, acts have been organized in recent weeks in at least five cities.

The trigger for the complaints was a series of blackouts, amid the power shortage that has affected the island since May. The same reason permeated the large protests of July 11 last year, amid frustration with the worsening that the Covid pandemic has imposed on chronic local problems, such as lack of freedoms, shortages and difficulties in accessing health.

At the time, the regime brutally repressed the acts, and attempts to replicate them ended up being contained by arrests, intimidation and pressure for opponents to go into exile. Even today, 700 protesters remain detained awaiting trial.

Now, in midsummer, power cuts have sparked demonstrations in some small communities. Independent media reported acts on the 21st in Jagüey Grande, Matanzas, Caibarien and Sagua la Grande.

A week earlier, dozens of Los Palacios residents marched to the percussion of pot lids. Authorities confirmed that the protest was motivated by the lack of light and that there were no arrests or acts of vandalism.

“People can’t stand the heat. They go out into the streets, go out onto balconies at night to wait for the light to come back on and turn on their fans,” Estrella Ramírez, 62, a resident of Bauta, 29 km from Havana, told AFP.

Today’s blackouts are not as intense as those of the early 1990s, when they lasted up to 16 hours, but analysts see a much greater impact now – citing July 11th. Scheduled cuts affect different locations, including at peak consumption times.

In the small town of Jesús Menéndez, AFP has heard from residents that electricity goes out for between 8 and 10 hours a day. “What do we do? We cook with charcoal [vegetal] or kerosene, when we can,” says housewife Gisela González, 54. According to official figures, 68% of Cuban homes use electric stoves.

The leader of the dictatorship, Miguel Díaz-Canel, said last Friday (22) that the protesters of these new punctual acts serve the “counter-revolution and those who want our blockade”, in allusion to the US embargo.

He asked Cubans to understand and save electricity, as the situation would not have an immediate solution.

For the veteran dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the blackouts are “the best ally” of the opposition and open space for the “generalized expression of accumulated social malaise”. as he showed the Sheet in April, the regime’s crackdown on the acts of a year ago left the opposition on the island fractured.

According to the National Electricity Union (UNE), the state responsible for supplying it, 95% of the country’s energy is generated by fossil fuels – whose price has soared on the international market this year, amid the Ukrainian War and global inflation.

The regime also recognizes that 19 of the 20 power generation blocks that supply Cuba exceed 35 years of useful life, but the maintenance work started in May and the constant breakdowns leave little room for manoeuvre. With this lag in the electricity generation structure, consumption at peak times reaches 2,900 megawatts, exceeding the 2,500 available and leading to drops in distribution.

Edier Guzmán, director of UNE, informed the state press that the “emergency situation in the electricity system will continue, with a gradual recovery”.

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