Diaz-Canel Inaugurates a Cuban-style ‘Hello President’ Program

Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy, were interviewed by journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet / Screen capture

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 22 March 2024 — “A big movement is beginning, like the one that was made in the Energy Revolution,” Cuba’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy announced in the first edition of the program Desde la Presidencia, a kind of Cuban “Hello President,” with Miguel Díaz-Canel as host and held from the Palace of the Revolution. The central theme of the inauguration of the program was, of course, the energy situation in the country and the protests of March 17.

There were, therefore, two fundamental axes. Regarding energy, some data was offered on the state of the deficit and possible solutions in the short and medium term; regarding the other axis, the demonstrations, in which, according to the president, there were “people who chanted counterrevolutionary slogans, some approached the commission of events with certain vandalism, some contempt, some disrespect for the authorities, especially because there is a lot of media pressure.”

These incidents, said the president, involved about 500 people in El Cobre, about “300 or 400” in Santiago de Cuba and “around 100 in the other place” – Bayamo, as can be deduced from the list he recited seconds ago about the locations – although he limited the counterrevolutionaries to around 10 or 12 people, a figure that coincides with the number of detainees that the NGO Justicia 11J was able to document.

Díaz-Canel wanted to put the data into perspective and stressed that the eastern capital has more than a million inhabitants

Díaz-Canel wanted to put the data into perspective and stressed that the eastern capital has more than a million inhabitants, although both he and his minister present said they understood “the discontent,” derived from an accumulation of food shortages and long blackouts. “The energy issue is a crosscutting issue in our economy,” granted De La O Levy, due to repercussions that transcend the lack of electricity itself and that involve the inability to pump of water and, therefore, its supply, and all industries, as well as food and medicine.

The leaders, interviewed by journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, summarized the origin of the problem as “energy persecution,” which prevents access to fuel that must be imported. “Cuban fuel is not enough for all of us,” said the minister, who put the national crude oil that was produced in times of the Soviet Union at one million tons of national crude compared to the 12 million that were received from Moscow, for a total consumption of 13 (in reality, Havana resold a part of the oil given away by Moscow on the international market).

“Today we are consuming eight million tons of fuel and producing three. We have to go look for five million tons of fuel in the international market and the cost for that is very high” (he did not refer to the crude oil that Venezuela and Mexico give away to Cuba).

To solve it, the most important thing is the conversion to solar announced last Wednesday by De la O himself, consisting of two contracts with Chinese companies that will install about six solar parks per province, three in a first phase in May 2025 and another three the same month of 2028. In total, they must contribute 2,000 megawatts (MW), of which 1,000 would be available next year and the minister considered this a new energy revolution.

De la O also spoke about the purchases and arrivals of fuel, with information provided in dribs and drabs due to “energy persecution.” “Every time something is done publicly, there is persecution, there are many examples. You participated,” he indicated, pointing to the journalist, “as part of a delegation, in negotiations that failed because they were made public. They called the press and everything was ruined. It was a stable supply,” he lamented. The next few days there will be, he said, more “stability, because a whole group of efforts that have been made with sister countries have begun to bear fruit.”

Both the president and, especially, the minister spoke about the operation of the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant in Matanzas

Both the president and, especially, the minister spoke about the operation of the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant in Matanzas, which after an up and down last Tuesday seems to be working as well as its 35 years allow, and they tried to argue the extension of electricity cuts, which keep part of the population in the dark, and to a greater extent in the east. But the argument used by De la O when comparing the Island with worse situations around the world did not help much with understanding.

“Very few countries in the world have the level of electrification that Cuba has, that is to say: why is there a blackout? Because I have a generation deficit, but there is a blackout because you were never born without electricity,” he said, and elaborated that there are States with millions of people without power lines and others – which he expressly said he did not want to mention – where privatization makes electricity unaffordable.

The long presentation hinted at some hope in an improvement in the energy situation, which will leave the population in doubt, after that announcement in May 2022 in which Díaz-Canel stated the blackouts would end that same month, and it was only the beginning fromofthe abyss. However, the president relied on this announced relief to start his diatribe against the United States. The authorities’ argument is that the protest was promoted on March 17 because it was known that on the 18th of March the Guiteras power plant would synchronize and an improvement would begin. “The time for the spark was running out,” he said.

Díaz-Canel was clear when given the opportunity to respond to “why he insists on holding Washington responsible.” “What is the lie that Cuba is telling about that? As long as there is a blockade, as long as there is a tightened blockade and as long as there is the inclusion of Cuba in a list of countries that supposedly support terrorism, we have every sovereign right to blame the United States Government,” he cried.

The speech was lengthy, although not very new. The northern neighbor was accused of wanting to impose a capitalist and neoliberal model, of being irritated at not being able to subdue “a Revolution that is not subordinated to it,” and of not accepting “our democracy, which is much better and more democratic than theirs.”

Díaz-Canel was offended by the accusations made against his Government, among which he mentioned the one made by several congressmen “who committed the infamy of using a lie, by saying that we had supposedly murdered a counterrevolutionary in Cuba,” in reference to rumors about the situation of José Daniel Ferrer, who has been detained since July 2021 and held incommunicado in recent months.

The Cuban leader also did not like that there was talk of repression in the protests, which he considers magnified. “Weren’t there protests in other places in the world that Sunday? Let’s not forget when in a Latin American country university students went out to protest in the streets and were repressed by shooting rubber pellets that left many blind,” he said about the marches in Chile in 2019. “Let’s not forget how demonstrations are repressed in certain European countries, or let’s not forget police repression and police brutality in the face of demonstrations in the United States,” he continued.

From there, he said, “they start talking about political prisoners, after the political prisoners they start saying that there is ungovernability and that it is a failed State and after that they start talking about regime change, a complete falsehood. (…). Why don’t they sit down with the Cuban Government at a negotiating table to talk about all the issues? Why do they persist in blockading us? Why do they persist in infamy and lies?”

The discourse was extensive and showed the path of where this new program, lasting just over an hour, can go

The discourse was extensive and showed the path of where this new program of just over an hour in length can go. The attendees themselves, who praised the work of the officials who show their faces – as, in their opinion, the secretary of the Communist Party of Santiago, Beatriz Johnson Urrutia, did on March 17 – mentioned the importance of fighting the ideological battle for which, without a doubt, the “communicative space” is a part.

This work of ideological strengthening will have to be carried out, above all, they said, when the conditions are met to introduce all the economic measures announced by Manuel Marrero in December, among which – if it is finally fulfilled – the end of the universal notebook. Predictably, then the revolts will be even greater. “But here we are, defending Fidel’s convictions, the aspirations that Fidel had of how the Revolution should bring a better situation to our people, a situation of emancipation, development, equality and social justice.”


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