Cubans Return to a Hellish Night of Prolonged Blackouts Throughout the Country

The UNE had predicted a deficit of almost 400 MW, but it was actually close to 1000 MW. (14ymedio/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 September 2023 — Hundreds of thousands of Cubans watched this Monday, in the middle of the darkness, the Electric Union (UNE) page on Facebook to stay informed about the prolonged blackout they endured when, suddenly, the electricity company itself shared a post and a promotional video that infuriated users. “Tonight, after the telenovela [soap opera],” wrote Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Cubavisión presents the documentary Los espías de Castro [Castro’s Spies].

“This seems like a mockery by the UNE of its consumers,” replied one of many indignant customers. “They are announcing the TV programming tonight in which, according to journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso, there were 937 MW affected at 8:30 pm in the country.” The rain of responses came shortly thereafter, in the face of the absurdity of the country’s electricity company, in the middle of one of the worst days without electricity of the year, after the departure, for the second consecutive day, of the largest thermoelectric plant in the country, the Antonio Guiteras in Matanzas.

It seems that Gerardo of the Five Spies has not yet found out that people in the East are being given a tremendous Blackout Festival

“It seems that Gerardo of the Five Spies has not yet found out that people in the East are being given a tremendous Blackout Festival,” replied another user. “He says telenovela, but a blackout is more like it. Don’t talk so much and solve more. No power from 8:59 pm. What a lack of respect!” exclaimed another one.

Users from different provinces recited the electricity deficit they endured at that time: 110 MW in Holguín, 60 MW in Santiago, 30 MW in Sancti Spíritus, 52 MW in Granma. From the east, where they are accustomed to suffering prolonged power outages unlike the brief or scarce ones in the capital, the usual reproach came. “Tell Gerardo to move out of Havana so that he and everyone can land in the disgusting country where we live. When he suffers from blackouts like ours, then we’ll see if they celebrate. CDR or no CDR,” spouted a holguinera.

But this Monday the power was also off in the capital, and from two in the morning this Tuesday there were still 107 pending complaints from Havana in the system for breakdowns that did not seem to end. “Dear customers, the area referring to Ampliación de Almendares, Playa is affected by a short in the circuit.” “The area referring to Sevillano, Santa Catalina, Juan Delgado and Santos Suárez is affected by an overload.” “The area referring to the Casino Deportivo, Cerro, is affected by a breakdown in the substation.”

The Telegram channel of the Electric Company of Havana was fuming. Users reported up to 11 hours without electricity, and the company asked for calm and patience while announcing successive work of the linemen in the different areas, but spirits were far from appeased. “You can’t sleep just with apologies,” one client replied.

“The departure of the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant and problems with fuel logistics cause a generation capacity deficit in Cuba,” said journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso hours earlier. He  announced that motors were being supplied to the Moa and Mariel power plants to start up during the early morning.

The deficit that the Electric Union had predicted early in the morning for Monday was 399 MW during rush hour, but reality  prevailed, and the deficit was more than double, causing breakdowns in each and every one of the provinces on a night that was particularly warm. In Pinar del Río, some voices denounced up to 18 hours without electricity; in others, such as Santiago de Cuba, a readjustment in the daily cuts was announced.

The deficit that the Electric Union had predicted early in the morning for Monday was 399 MW at peak hour, but reality had prevailed, and the deficit was more than double

Among the many demands that multiplied on social networks in the early hours of the morning was one that recalled the promise of the authorities, who assured that 2023 would not resemble last year.

In May 2022, Cuba entered a spiral of daily blackouts that reached their peak in September and caused protests to germinate in dozens of cities throughout the country, the largest that had been seen since July 11, 2021. The Government promised countless dates in which the problem would be solved, but the breakdowns in the thermoelectric plants – which have lived longer than they should due to ack of maintenance – and the shortage of fuel postponed the moment.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s tour of several allied countries and energy suppliers – Algeria, Turkey, China and Russia – and the outbreak of winter achieved a truce, and the year began with the words of the new Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy (replacing the ousted Liván Arronte Cruz), promising that the planned maintenance schedule for the thermoelectric plants predicted a better year, with blackouts that would not in any case be like those of 2022. But the promises have been of little use and, although the panorama has not been as serious so far as that of the previous year, citizens fear the worst.

All eyes are on the Antonio Guiteras power plant, while the Government meets to address an energy transition to renewables that has been delayed for years and that the country’s finances can hardly afford. The patches applied to the Turkish floating power plants, which very expensive and polluting, cannot be a long-term solution, and the announcement of aid from Russia to build “new generating capacities” of electricity will take years to materialize at best.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.