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Cuba: Blackouts, a reflection of the failure of communism

In recent decades there have been more downs than ups in the Cuban economy, cyclones passed that devastated part of the island; inflation, currency changes, cuts in subsidies, shortages of basic goods and restrictions, inefficient production and an economic reorganization that never worked.

But none of this managed to provoke public complaints like the recent blackouts. The lack of electricity has become, in recent days, a catalyst for the inconvenience of many of the shortages – of food, medicine, fuel – in a country where, until July 11, 2021, there were hardly any protests or pot-banging.

The sustained worsening of all indicators, including energy indicators, leads to a notable exacerbation of malaise at the scale of the entire society in whose context spontaneous social outbreaks go from being a possibility to a reality. July 11 (2021) was a first example, from which people assume their right to protest like never before.

Although the lack of freedom and their hatred of communism were at the center of the claims of thousands of people who went out to march on July 11 and 12 of last year in the first protests in more than 20 years in Cuba, these mobilizations of the first days of October focused on service interruptions while other people also demanded political changes.

Power outages are so frustrating for people because they have an immediate impact on daily life. Cubans live without encouragement and the few provisions that people get break down with these blackouts.

There is also an accumulation of discomfort. Since (Miguel) Díaz-Canel put him in the presidency, Cuba has suffered a serious economic blow that people feel in their daily lives. Raul Castro is the one who controls the money and does not allocate it to the country’s economy.

The interruption of service is dramatic for Cuban families in the midst of tropical heat. Many homes cook with electricity, the appliances do not work, the water motors do not pump -so there is no supply-, it is impossible to wash or carry out almost any activity and the food that was obtained with great difficulty threatens to decompose.

The background scenario is a harsh economic crisis caused by several factors, including the paralysis of the country -and especially of the key tourism sector- due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The consequences have been long queues to get almost any product, inflation and record emigration, among others.

In the 2021 demonstrations one man was killed and thousands were viciously repressed. The number of detainees was never officially reported, but non-governmental groups estimated them at 1,400 and the Prosecutor’s Office recognized in June that there were 488 sentences; while international organizations harshly criticized the authorities for the arrests that, in their opinion, are a way of restricting citizen expression.

Then, for more than a year, no protests were reported, but the worsening of the blackouts together with the passage of Cyclone Ian -which even caused a national electricity cut-, unleashed the complaints again.

Neighbors touching saucepans and rebuking the authorities and officials of the Communist Party, the only one with legal status on the island, were common in neighborhoods of the capital. Internet was cut while the protests were taking place and monitoring groups outside the island interpreted it as a way to prevent the demonstrations from being reported.

Both in 2021 and now some calls for political changes were heard, but on neither occasion was there a leadership in the protests. Cuba lacks an opposition leader because the dictatorship has been responsible for imprisoning and repressing all those brilliant minds capable of leading Cuba to prosperity.

The Prosecutor’s Office now reported that it is investigating these new disorders while the regime reiterated its accusation of sectors in exile of launching campaigns on social networks to incite protests and cause chaos. For critics, however, they are a sign of the population’s weariness.

The National Energy System is particularly vulnerable in Cuba due to the obsolescence of its more than 30-year-old thermoelectric plants, the lack of fuel to feed the small production plants that also comprise it, and little-used renewable resources.

Although the majority of the population did not join the protests despite the fact that people lost confidence that the regime will fix the situation, other citizens agreed with the possibility of demonstrating, also something unthinkable in the recent past.

“Not all of us go out on the streets, there are people who do,” said Dennis Dorson, a 36-year-old courier employee. “People have the right to claim what is wrong.”

In many countries protests are daily, but in Cuba for decades the revolutionary leaders and especially the former dictator Fidel Castro, who died in November 2016, cut off any iota of freedom. Thus, the demonstrations were seen as a criminal offence.

The internet has broken the information monopoly enjoyed by the Cuban regime for decades, and although the majority of Cubans on the island demand short-term solutions such as the restoration of electricity, it would be a mistake not to take it into account as charged demands. political demands and their desire to put an end to communism.

Meanwhile, the authorities assured that they are working at full steam to eliminate power cuts and reverse interruptions. The reality is that this statement is false. Cuba is a failed state with no response to the requests of its citizens.

Cuba has electrification of 99% of its territory and 42,000 kilometers of primary transmission lines integrated into a national energy system. 61% of its consumption is residential and 34% is state and 3% private non-residential.

The maximum demand in 2022 in one day was 3,188 megawatts, but on some days in July electricity generation only reached 47%, which explains the magnitude of the blackouts.

Communism is the perfect example of what should not be done so that a society lives with fundamental rights and can enjoy the benefits of the 21st century in all its splendor.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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