Parade of Ministers on Cuba’s Roundtable TV Show Call for Tranquility

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl García Barreiro, accompanied Miguel Díaz-Canel in the second broadcast of the Roundtable TV show to assess the lack of fuel and propose savings measures.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2019 — The second appearance of President Miguel Díaz-Canel and several of his ministers on the Roundtable TV show was an exercise in contortionism of the powers-that-be committed to explaining to Cubans that everything is under control and nothing will be affected but all sectors must adjust downwards. Of course, because the United States prevents the arrival of fuel to the Island.

“Here the truth is told and only the truth, what is not said is not to give in to the difficulties. The enemy wants to close all possible doors,” said the president before passing the word to his team, which was analyzing the optimization of resources that will be carried out in two phases. The first should end this weekend, and the second “begins with the arrival of the fuel vessel to the country, although it is not enough. That is why we must stretch it to ensure the vitality of the country until the end of the month,” said Alejandro Gil, Economy Minister.

Among the most affected industries will be heavy materials and construction. Gil said steel and cement will lower production for at least fifteen or twenty days to prioritize food and “products in the retail sphere,” bureaucratic terms that apply to detergents and soaps, among other items. The great beneficiary, for whom no modification has been announced, is the usual one, tourism. “Cuba is in a position to offer a quality service to visitors arriving on the Island.”

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl García Barreiro, tried to call for calm in the face of Cuban fears of blackouts. Although he acknowledged that in recent days there have been brief power outages in Havana and other regions, it occurs “as in any other country,” and he linked them to specific problems in substations, in addition to ruling out that electricity generation is insufficient.

“Measures are taken in the state sector to reduce spending, and it is very favorable for the people to be involved, consumers of 60% of the energy. At peak times that amount is greater, so everything we can do in homes to shift the demand in this moment is favorable,” García Barreiro asked citizens.

The minister also admitted the problems with liquefied gas, which almost two million Cubans depend on, but promised that it was about to be solved. “The gas supply is guaranteed and we have contracts signed until December. On the weekend the service must be stabilized in the eastern provinces, on Tuesday in the center of the country and on Thursday in the west. We are not only talking about regulated gas, but also of the sale unrationed gas with its usual cycle,” he said.

Among the services affected in his area is the supply of gasoline in the service centers, which according to his commitment, will be resolved at the end of the month, and so he asked that current stocks be ‘stretched’.

The direct consequence of this is the damage to another sector, transport, which keeps Cubans paralyzed. Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, minister of the branch, also appeared on the TV show to give explanations.

Of the 1.1 million people who are normally transported daily, today only 600,000 do so and bus trips have dropped from 7,000 to 4,000. “That is why we must ask for greater collaboration from bus companies,” Rodríguez Dávila asked.

The minister also asked the drivers for help and warned that inspectors and police are deployed in case collaboration is not voluntary.

In a new attempt to say one thing and the opposite, Rodríguez Dávila indicated that the trains would not “be affected,” but as of this Sunday, and although a new schedule for service to the east of the country begins, there will be restructuring of schedules. In addition, he ordered those who had already bought a ticket to get a refund if there has been any modification in their departure which no longer works for them.

Medications, on the other hand, will not suffer from transport problems. Although, for that, they will have to exist. The Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, another of the appearing parties, explained that this is in the best moment of drug production in the last four years, but that there is still much to improve, especially because of the ‘blockade’, and so he has returned to lend a hand shortly after his colleague, the Minister of Economy said: “Our task is to find solutions to each problem, not justifications.”

The Minister of Health said that fuel is guaranteed for the boilers in hospitals and for ambulances, but referrals to other doctors are encouraged to reduce displacements. He also noted that energy will be allocated to the war against arboviruses (for example dengue and zika).

There was no representative on the show from Education, but Gil said he will not stop teaching “although there may be schedule shifts.” Some commentators warned that classes have been suspended at the Central University Marta Abreu (UCLV) and the Technological University of Havana José Antonio Echeverría, (Cujae).

Marta Elena Feitó Cabrera, First Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security, was also there to talk about something new: telecommuting. In the absence of fuel and transportation problems, the Government has found the benefits of maintaining productivity without commuting, which will also avoid “absenteeism, late arrivals and early departures,” he said.

One could not miss, in such circumstances, a little epic. That’s why Díaz-Canel turned to the classics: Fidel Castro, the five heroes, and the Vietnamese friend. “Cuba does not have a day without history,” he said.


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