Havana ( Associated Press) — More than two days after a blackout that affected the entire island following the passage of Hurricane Ian, dozens of Cubans in Havana staged a protest demanding the restoration of power.
In at least two points in the capital’s Cerro Municipality, “We need light, we need light!” Around 400 people were standing on the streets amidst the slogans of and cacerolazos, according to a reporter for the Associated Press.
This is the first claim on the roads after the impact of a meteorite on Tuesday after the blackout on the island with a population of 11 million. As of Thursday night, there was no internet or cell phone service.
Internet access monitoring groups confirmed the service interruption to the Associated Press.
“We can confirm a near complete shutdown of the Internet in Cuba,” said Alp Tokar, director of NetBlox, a London-based network monitoring firm. “We believe this event is likely to have a significant impact on the free flow of information between protests,” it added.
Doug Madori, director of internet analytics for network management company Kentik, described what happened as a “total blackout” that began at 00:30 GMT. “I’ve been hearing reports that there were protests, but the storm was also passing.”
Police arrived at one point of protest on Primeleaf Street, although people remained at one corner. About 10 blocks from there, on Calzada del Cerro, others surrounded a brigade of workers trying to repair a post and a transformer.
There was no outbreak of violence till close to midnight and people had gathered at two points in the neighbourhood.
In July 2021, Cuba was the scene of the largest social protest in decades. Thousands of people, overwhelmed by the blackouts and shortages affected by the pandemic and United States sanctions, took to the streets on the island demanding a solution to one of the biggest crises and some even attacked the Cuban government. Hundreds of people were arrested and prosecuted, which provoked harsh criticism of President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s administration.
Ian, a monstrous storm that crossed Cuba to the west, killed three people and a power failure caused an as-yet-undetermined amount of physical damage – for the first time in living memory – leaving the island in complete darkness. Gave.
The government has not yet given an official estimate of the number of affected or when the problem will be resolved at the national level. However, the electricity authority said in a statement on Thursday that in Havana, home to two million people, only 10% of users have electricity.
The lack of electricity keeps many Cubans in check.
Last week Ivette Garrido looked for six kilos of chicken that would suit her family and froze them to stock up on before the cyclone’s possible arrival. On Thursday, he was considering turning them into food for his three dogs without electricity for two days.
In some places, neighbors celebrated when the power came on Wednesday, although in some places it came back and went away. Thousands of families like Garrido are without electricity for more than 48 hours and fear losing the little food they get in the context of a general shortage.
Experts indicated that the total blackout demonstrated a vulnerability of the National Energy System (SEN) and warned that getting out of the trance would require time and resources – which the country does not have, while officials assured they would are trying tirelessly. To solve the problem..
“We haven’t had a great time, trying to survive, to keep things from melting,” Garrido, 53, who lives with his elderly mother and 19-year-old daughter in Cozimar Municipality, told the Associated Press. Outskirts of Havana.
The woman placed bags of ice water in a freezer along with chicken, some pork and sausage to try to prolong the cold, a difficult target with temperatures in excess of 30 °C.
He went to a small hotel several kilometers away to charge his mobile phone and laptop.
Half a dozen Havana residents with whom the Associated Press spoke Thursday morning were troubled by the lack of electricity, which brings with it the impossibility of carrying water—because it relies on motors—and not being able to cook, because This is part of a campaign in the 2000s to phase out artisan hearths that cook electric food in Cuban homes.
According to officials, the total outage occurred due to a failure in the link between the three regions of the country – west, center and east, due to the passage of Ian with wind speed up to 200 kmph.
People consulted by the Associated Press in major cities across the country reported a similar situation as in Havana. For example, in Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de vila, Camaguey and Santiago, a good percentage reported that their neighborhoods were without electricity even after the blackout.
“SEN was already in a critical and immunosuppressive state as a result of the degradation of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” George Peon, director of the Energy and Environment Program for Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of Texas, told the Associated Press.
The Caribbean nation has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are conventional thermoelectric plants, including five modern floating plants rented from Turkey since 2019, not intended to aggravate the situation further. There is also a group of smaller plants distributed throughout the country since the energy reform in 2006.
But in all respects they are obsolete and poorly maintained infrastructure, a phenomenon the government attributed to budget constraints and Washington sanctions that prevented modernization of equipment. Complications in obtaining fuel, which Cuba buys from Venezuela at preferential prices, is also a problem.
Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Associated Press reporter E. Eduardo Castillo of Mexico City contributed to this story.