Cuba: During a Blackout, Residents of Santa Cruz del Sur Boo the ‘Full Bellies Up There’

Mass protest on Sunday in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camagüey. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2022–Antonio Guiteras, a 280 megawatt power plant, could not contribute to the National Electric System (SEN) on Sunday as planned, nor will it be able to do so on Monday. Yesterday, the deficit reached 1.412 MW at the national level during peak hours at 11pm and people went out to the streets to protests in several areas of the Island.

The most watched and best documented protests, with videos shared on social media, were people banging on pots in Bejucal (Mayabeque province) and especially in Santa Cruz del Sur (Camagüey province), where residents threw themselves into the streets yelling, “Díaz-Canel motherfucker,” “Down with Díaz-Canel,” “Long live a free Cuba,” or “Down with the full bellies up there.”

“While restarting, the Antonio Guiteras power plant had a problem in its starter for which we are seeking a solution. We do not expect it to restart today,” informed the Cuban Electric Union (UNE) in its statement on Monday, which expected a maximum deficit of 41% for Monday.

According to the information, at 7 am, there were 1,676 MW generated and a demand of 2,553 MW; that is, a difference of 872 MW of which only 77 were due to the damages caused by Hurricane Ian. In addition, it is possible the maximum deficit will reach 1,000 MW.

On Sunday, the director of the main thermoelectric power plant in Cuba, Misbel Palmero Aguilar, stated in a declaration shared on Canal Caribe that “a fissure on the outside wall of the boiler, detected in the restarting process” on Saturday, has prevented the synchronization of the plant.

Furthermore, the official added that “this fissure has nothing to do with the breakdown that occurred a few days ago,” confirming that the solution for the failing Guiteras plant will be difficult. Palmero Aguilar said that while they were in the process of restarting on Saturday, as soon as it reached 70% and the pressure in the boiler increased, this fissure appeared in one of the tubes that supports a burner.

The director added that Guiteras has “mechanical defects caused by the expansion and contraction while starting and stopping the plant, which has been in use for 34 years,” and highlighted that the thermoelectric plant is subjected to continuous tension in its walls and starters “and that it was not possible detect this during the hydraulic test they conducted after the repairs they made to the boiler.”

Now they need to determine its caliber to fix the fissure, but it is evident that the power plant has been shut off more days than it has been functioning since the summer and that citizens continue without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the jokes upon hearing the daily news on UNE, the desperation is evident.

“Stop trying to restart Guiteras, it no longer works. Stop wasting money on other things and invest in that. They don’t realize that’s the country’s main problem,” said one of the many comments on the news Monday. “Guiteras. Season 5. Episode 250. The New Cooling,” said another one ironically. “Guiteras has been out of service for more than ten days. Today it’s the starter, yesterday it was the leak, tomorrow surely another leak. Those who live in the provinces resisting and those who live in the capital just watch calmly. The problem is only for those who of us who live in the interior provinces,” adds another reader.

The blackouts in the provinces exceed, by a lot, any outages in the capital city. The 14ymedio correspondent in Holguín was without power for 12 hours on Sunday, from 6pm Sunday until 6am Monday.

Another Cubadebate reader who lives in that same province, in the Zayas neighborhood, stated that he’s been without water for a month and the blackouts last half the day. “Hundreds of calls to those who should provide water and no solution; explanations and justifications, thousands. We need leaders who move with more haste,” he reproached.

The information provided by UNE is repeated every day in the official daily and within minutes it becomes the most read and most commented news item of the day, even though it is a state-controlled media. The messages leave no room for doubt — people are reaching their limit.

“Only the truth can save us from this quagmire of poor governance in which we find ourselves. Nothing works — there is no electricity, terrible water service, basic food such as bread, milk and sugar, etc. in total deficit. Shortages of medicines and other products. Stores sell in MLC (freely convertible currency) at exorbitant prices for Cubans. We need to begin to recognize the problems, beginning with the newscast, and face the people. More critiques and real changes and stop with the slogans and social media. Urgent changes are needed and no more dressing it up.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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