The Cuban capital, Havana, will start in August with electricity cuts, canceled the carnival and is taking other measures in the face of the country’s worsening energy crisis, state media related to the communist party reported on Saturday.
The capital, home to a fifth of the population of 11.2 million inhabitants and the center of Cuba’s incipient economic activity, had been spared the daily blackouts of four hours or more that the rest of the island has suffered for months.
The rationing has sparked some local protests this summer and a year ago in July fueled an unprecedented day of unrest in the country, when discontent boiled over.
For now, a schedule of power cuts will mean that all six of Havana’s municipalities will have rationing every three days during the midday rush hours, according to the local Communist Party daily Tribuna de la Habana, which reported on a meeting of authorities .
The Cuban Electrical Union (UNE) forecasts this Saturday a 21% deficit in power generation during peak hours and an impact of 576 megawatts (MW).
“An availability of 2,349 MW and a maximum demand of 2,855 MW for a deficit of 506 MW are estimated for peak hours,” the state company said in a press release.
The UNE added that “yesterday the service was affected by capacity deficit 24 hours a day” and also “it remained affected throughout the early hours of today.”
The blackouts reflect a deepening economic crisis. Soaring prices for food, fuel and shipping have exposed import dependency and vulnerabilities such as deteriorating infrastructure. The country’s economy declined 10.9% in 2020, recovering just 1.3% last year.
Cubans have endured more than two years of food and medicine shortages, long lines to buy scarce goods, high prices and transportation problems. The blackouts have only added to the frustration, prompting an exodus of more than 150,000 Cubans since October to the United States and other countries.
Impotence is growing among the population, not only due to the lack of energy, which in several cases can extend to more than ten hours, but also due to the dengue epidemic that has already caused several deaths, especially among children. In the absence of electricity, parents are unable to drive away the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.
In a television appearance last June, the dictator Díaz-Canel had acknowledged social discontent over the constant and extensive blackouts throughout the country, and promised that he would stabilize energy capacity during the summer. Despite these promises, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte, acknowledged that the blackouts will continue for an indefinite period.
The Castro regime argues that the cuts in supply are due to breakages in the plants, the fuel deficit for distributed generation and scheduled maintenance.
Power cuts were, along with other serious economic problems, some of the factors that fueled social unrest last year in Cuba, when the biggest protests in decades took place.