Cubans Dread the Return of Lengthy Blackouts

Officials have not given details of the quantity of fuel no longer being consumed due to the closing of industries, the paralysis of education and the shutting down of public transportation. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 19th, 2020 — Cubans fear that added to the Covid-19 crisis on the Island will be electrical black-outs due to exhaustion of fuel supply, a concern that has increased this week when the authorities made an appeal to save energy on account of the increased consumption due to confinement and the elevated temperatures.

Those who recall the crisis of the ’90s, officially known as the “Special Period“, fear a short-term repetition of the scarcity of foodstuffs, collapse of transportation, and blackouts which characterized those years following the loss of Soviet subsidies.

Months before the first case of coronavirus contagion in Cuba, the scarcity of fuel had caused a decrease in public transportation and of the workday in many state offices, as well as in the supply to gasoline stations.

Faced with an “uncommon increase of demand and consumption” which went so far as to surpass the high average consumption of summer months, the National Office for the Control of Reasonable Use of Energy launched a “Save Now!” campaign.

With the majority of families in seclusion and classes suspended, the use of air conditioners, fans and appliances has shot up in Cuban households. The situation was made worse this past April 12th when a new national temperature record of 39.7C (103.5F) was recorded.

Sixty-eight percent of this demand is concentrated in households, according to data from the National Energy Council. In Havana alone, residential sector use rose from 55% to 80%, as the General Director of Eléctrica de la Habana, Mario Castillo, explained to the newspaper Tribuna.

During the first fortnight of April, the average maximum demand at noon (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) rose 20.6%; 421 Megawatts above the expected according to official sources cited by the state news agency Agencia Cubana de Notícias.

“All this high consumption causes damages that are perfectly avoidable if the population pays heed to the effectiveness of using energy in a reasonable manner,” insists the Director of the electric company Empresa Eléctrica de la Habana.

Nonetheless, the officials have not given details as to how much fuel use has been reduced with the closing of industries, the suspension of classes and the shutting down of public transportation, measures undertaken to face down the coronavirus.

These worries have shot up the demand for candles, matches and fuel to light oil lamps, but the task of latching on to these products is arduous in a country where the greater part of products are rationed, and others are sold on the black market because of the exhaustion of supplies in stores.

In the Twitter social medium, a number of users have reported electrical outages this past week, and have reactivated the hashtag #ReportoApagonCuba in order to report the situation. This hashtag was greatly popularized around the middle of this past year when a series of cash flow crises that required the cutting back of imports was noticed. Cuba’s principal ally and benefactor, the Venezuelan government led by Nicolás Maduro, had to confront its own internal crisis, for which it reduced substantially the shipments of petroleum to the Island.

With less money to buy petroleum at international market prices, and without the Venezuelan subsidy, the authorities perform juggling acts in order to avoid having the Island regress to the years in which blackouts lasted twelve hours.

 Translated by: Pedro Antonio Gallet Gobin


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