14ymedio, Miguel García, Holguín, 31 October 2023 – Six years ago, a wagon crashed into an electricity pole on the road the leads to Valle de Mayabe in Holguín. The base of the structure was fractured and the rest of it remained, and remains, in a precarious condition, held up only by luck, and by the cables above it. Countless reports to Unión Eléctrica (UNE) have prompted hardly any visits by technicians and the concrete and steel giant remains broken. There is a constant mortal danger posed to the vehicles and pedestrians which pass below.
The pole – which is only metres away from a bus stop where workers and even local schoolchildren congregate – is a target for residents’ complaints. “This has been the topic of discussion in many many meetings”, Niubis, a local resident told this newspaper. “On one occasion we did have a visit from an Electricity Company rep but all he said was that it didn’t pose any danger because the cables – which are High Voltage! – were stopping it from crashing down!”
The residents didn’t believe the official view. “How can they say it’s all ok? These poles aren’t designed to be supported from above, they need to have a solid base”, says the woman. “Many people use this pathway to get to their appointments”, she says, in reference to patients of the nearby Holguín Clinical Surgery Hospital, and adds that there are also people on their way to the affiliated Arístides Estevez Infirmary.
“To watch them, they’re not really aware of the danger. But when someone gets close to it they realise that no part of it is actually fixed into the ground: it has no foundations”, explains Nuibis, and she blames this danger on the apathy of the authorities. “If it were leaning more, or broken higher up maybe our complaint would go further, but as everything around here is always just a question of cosmetics, of optics, the only thing that matters to them is that it looks ok should Díaz-Canel pass by”.
“No sooner than another vehicle happens to to give it a nudge, or another cyclone arrives, it’ll come straight down to the ground”, says a local seller of juice and soft drinks. “They haven’t replaced it because they don’t want to. Hundreds of people pass through here every day and they’re risking their lives everytime they get near this pole”. The man believes they’ve deliberately conspired to blame their negligence on the current fuel shortage, which, so often, officials use as a justification for not carrying out necessary repairs.
UNE also alludes to problems in getting hold of new electricity poles, given that production of these items was halted for more than two years in parts of the country. A lack of specialist labour also contributed to the deterioration in maintenance carried out by the state electricity monopoly. The exodus of trained linesmen has grown in recent months – they earn less than 10,000 pesos a month, including the additional ’danger’ payments.
It’s got to a point where locals and regular passers by are just praying that there won’t be a cyclone to bring down the battered pole – or failing that, that some ’illustrious’ visitor is due to pass by, thus obliging them to replace it. For the time being though, it remains a simple question of survival by keeping a careful eye on it and avoiding it as much as possible when travelling on the road to Valle de Mayabe.
Translated by Ricardo Recluso
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