Ivan Garcia, 3 July 2017 — The fan stopped turning around 3:30 in the morning, when in the middle of a heat wave, a black out forced Ricardo, his wife and their two children to sleep on a mat on the balcony of their apartment in the Lawton neighborhood, a thirty minute drive from central Havana.
Several areas were left dark and lit only by candles and lanterns, dozens of neighbors complained with rude words and sharp criticisms of of the poor performance of state electricity and water companies.
The blackout lasted for seven hours. “I couldn’t iron my children’s school uniforms and they are in the midst of final exams. I sent them to school in street clothes. Nor could my husband and I go to work. When I the light came on, after ten in the morning, we lay in bed for a while. The situation is already so bad no one can stand it. It’s one problem after another. The water crisis, which is still affecting us, public transportation is the worst, food prices don’t stop rising and now this black out in the middle of this terrible heat,” says Zoraida, Ricardo’s wife.
Almost a month after a break in one of the main pipes that brings potable water to Havana, and then an intense information campaign on the part of the office press, filled with justifications and an exaggerated optimism, where radio, TV and newspapers report the hours there will be water in each neighborhood, after the repairs, completed two weeks ago, and with the promise that service would gradually return to normal in the different zones of the capital, they are still suffering the affects and the media doesn’t offer any explanations.
“Some 200,000 people are still affected and are receiving water every three days. By Thursday, June 22, it was expected to regularize the service, but some problems have arisen,” said an official of Aguas de La Habana in the municipality Diez de Octubre, the most populated of the capital’s districts.
The affected Havanans don’t stop complaining. “In my house, the tank that we have on the roof does not have the capacity for the water to last three days. Although we try to save it, in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry, the water that we are able to collect is spent in two days. The government comes up with one lie after another. First it was reported that the break was a matter of a week, at most two. And we’re going on for a month now. Instead of responding with so much noise to Trump’s measures, they should focus on improving the living conditions of Cubans,” complains Mario, a resident of Luyanó, a working-class neighborhood in the south of the city.
Rumors about the resurgence of the perennial economic crisis that Cubans are experiencing, spread throughout the city. “I have it on good authority, from a friend of my brother who is in the party, I know that by summer the government is going to make new cuts in companies’ fuel consumption, and they will close unproductive factories and industries until further notice. The scarcity is noticeable. The state farm markets are empty and the shortages in the hard currency stores are obvious. It is said that in the upcoming session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, on July 14, they are going to announce new measures of cuts. Thing looks ugly,” says Miriam, housewife, at the entrance to a bodega in Cerro municipality.
Diario Las Américas could not verify those comments and rumors.
A banking official who prefers anonymity believes that the country’s financial situation is “quite delicate.” He says, “There is not enough currency liquidity. Even payments of the various debts contracted with foreign companies are not being made. Tourism, which contributes about $3 billion in revenue, devours almost 60 percent of that revenue in the purchase of inputs. Remittances are the lifeline, but with shortages in foreign exchange stores and high prices, many people are spending their convertible pesos on the black market or in the parallel trade of the ’mules’ that bring products from abroad. A large part of that money is not being returned to the state coffers, as people involved in these activities either save it or use it as an investment in their business.”
To minimize reality, the olive-green autocracy uses anti-imperialist discourse and condemnations of Donald Trump’s new policy of restrictions as a smokescreen.
“That narrative has always worked. But people on the street know that this discourse is exhausted. They can’t justify all the national wreckage and the poor performance of the public services with the economic blockade of the United States nor with the recent aggressive policy of Trump. Cubans are at their limit with everything. It is not advisable to think that Cubans will always be silent. Situations such as blackouts and cuts in the water supply make people angry and their reactions could be unpredictable,” warns a sociologist.
With finances in the red, an economic recession that threatens to turn into a crisis of incalculable consequences, and grandiose development plans that sound like science fiction to ordinary Cubans, the authorities are facing a dangerous precipice.
Six decades of selling illusions and with unfulfilled promises are already coming to an end. And it could be less than happy.