The Cuban capital, Havana, will cut electricity in August, canceled carnival and is taking other measures in the face of a worsening energy crisis in the country, state media said on Saturday.
The capital is home to a fifth of Cuba’s population of 11.2 million and is the center of the island’s economic activity. The city has so far been spared the daily power outages lasting four or more hours that have been adopted across the rest of the country for months.
The blackouts sparked a few local protests over the summer and, a year ago, led to a day of unprecedented unrest as discontent in the country boiled over.
For now, a blackout schedule means that each of Havana’s six municipalities will have electricity cuts every three days during peak, midday hours, according to the Communist Party newspaper Tribuna de La Habana, which published a report on a meeting of local authorities.
The blackout reflects a deepening economic crisis that began with tough new US sanctions on the island in 2019 and worsened with the pandemic and later Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Higher food, fuel and transport prices exposed import dependency and economic vulnerabilities such as decaying infrastructure. The country’s economy dropped 10.9% in 2020 and recovered just 1.3% last year.
Cubans have experienced 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, leading to the exodus of more than 150,000 Cubans since October to the United States, and more elsewhere.
“This is the time to show solidarity and help the rest of Cuba to suffer less from the unwanted blackouts,” said Havana Communist Party leader Luis Antonio Torres, according to Tribuna.
Torres and others at the meeting insisted they were acting in solidarity with Cubans rather than necessity, and announced other measures such as mass vacations to close state-owned enterprises, work-from-home schemes and a 20% cut in energy allocation to businesses. private with high consumption. The carnival that was canceled would be held next month.
Jorge Pinon, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Environment and Energy Program at the University of Texas, offered a different assessment than Torres. He said the entire power grid was close to collapse after recent fires at two of the 20 power plants that were already obsolete, with others constantly breaking down.
“When you keep using equipment beyond scheduled maintenance, it goes into a downward spiral with no short-term solutions,” he told Reuters.
“The announced blackouts are not in solidarity, but a necessity to avoid a possible total system collapse,” Pinon said.