Cuba One Year Since July 11 (11J): The Blackouts Get Worse

Damage after the fire at the Felton thermoelectric plant. (Periódico Ahora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, 9 July 2022 — We are approaching the first anniversary of July 11, the day when the Cuban people peacefully and courageously expressed that they were in a position to demand a political change for democracy, freedom and human rights in Cuba. And while the regime recreates itself in propaganda and manipulation, in this blog we are going to review what has happened in the Cuban economy during the last year. Because if one thing is true, it is that the accelerated deterioration of the economic situation in 2021 due to the “Ordering Task*” was a catalyst that prompted the people to protest against their rulers and convey an idea: things are not going well and they have to change.

As will be shown in this blog post and the next ones until July 11, Cubans have no reason to think that their complaints have been addressed by the communist regime. Quite the contrary.

Let’s begin with the blackouts. During the last year, at an average of two hours per day without power, the average Cuban has had to endure more than 700 hours of blackouts. That is to say, put all the hours together, and that is the equivalent of more than 30 24-hour days/year without a power supply. So no one can live normally.

It’s true that last year the blackouts weren’t as continuous and intense as this year, and people remain distressed because the situation isn’t adequately explained, nor can it be resolved with their own means. Worst of all, people end up learning about what is happening a posteriori and contemplate with dread the idea that behind the interruption of power there is nothing more than the laziness of the leaders.

And in this way, in a situation recognized by the regime of lower production than consumption, it turns out that a misfortune occurs. A large fire interrupted the final tests that were carried out, after 129 days of maintenance and interruption of its functions, of block 2 of the Felton thermoelectric power plant in Holguín, one of the most important in the country.

As a result of the fire, which caused damage to the unit’s turbine, there was a leak in one of the boiler tubes through which national crude was circulating. Once again, national oil and its disastrous sulfur composition are blamed. So even when the boiler was turned off, the high temperatures inside ended up causing the fire. And as a result of all this, the necessary synchronization with the National Electrical System (SEN) couldn’t be carried out, which meant a loss of production.

Like playing with fire. On this occasion, the regime forced the general director of the thermoelectric plant, in an exceptional situation, to make a statement to the Cuban television news, to explain that workers of the plant and forces of the fire brigade put out the flames in just 45 minutes, highlighting that there were no injuries or deaths.

Viewers were overwhelmed by the appearance of the director on national television. They don’t usually descend to these levels of the hierarchy, and it seems that the regime opted for the saying “each stick holds its candle.” Cubans learned on the news that because of the fire, which occurred at 2 p.m., Block 2 of Felton had damages described as “considerable and not easy to eradicate,” in a clear acceptance that power outages will continue. The photo report in the state press gave a good account of the disaster caused by the flames.

So, as a preventive measure, after the fire that paralyzed Unit 1, which provided stability of around 250 megawatts to the SEN, was put out, production resumed in order to synchronize the power at night. Nothing was said about this alleged return to normality.

Cubans, a year after the July 11 demonstrations, are fed up with so much talk and the technical, anodyne explanations about the origin of the blackouts, and increasingly confused about when the lights will come on, because there is more time of darkness than light. They know that blackouts appear and reach some areas while in others they don’t.

For example, in the most confrontational neighborhoods, where the regime detects a higher level of social unrest in the population, electricity is maintained, while it disappears in the interior areas of the country and where there are medium-sized populations. This is intended to lessen the feeling of anger at the regime, which these blackouts keep alive in large sectors of the population. Blackouts have continued, a year later, with even greater incidence. There is no solution to this problem in the Cuban communist regime.

The blackouts will continue. *Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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