Scorching summer temperatures and power grid shorts have long been a part of life in Cuba, but the island now faces severe fuel shortages, failing power plants and widespread blackouts that put the island at risk. ordeal even the most patient.
The energy crisis is of particular concern to government officials after widespread protests last year, the largest since the Cuban revolution, which began after residents grew tired of blackouts and took to the streets .
Last week, residents of the western town of Los Palacios angrily banged pots and pans in a “cacerolazo” to protest an overnight power outage. Residents reported that internet service was down for several hours and that local authorities were finally able to calm down the protesters. At least for now.
“Cuba looks like a powder keg that could explode on any street corner,” said Miguel, who lives in the same province where the latest protests took place. He asked that his full name not be used for fear of reprisal.
In response to the growing energy crisis, officials regularly give updates on power shortages, but the news is rarely good.
“The situation is complex and tense at the moment, but it has a solution although it will not happen immediately,” Energy and Mines Minister Livan Arronte Cruz said in a television appearance. public on Monday, where he admitted the power cuts would continue. Summer.
Cuban officials say U.S. sanctions, which have increased significantly under the Trump administration and have largely been maintained under President Biden, are making purchasing spare parts for power plants and even fuel difficult and more expensive.
But analyst Jorge Piñon, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program at the University of Texas at Austin, said the Cuban government was producing less crude than it needed to run the country’s power plants. island and was increasingly facing a shortage of energy.
Investments in renewable energy have so far not borne fruit. A Chinese joint venture project to build a wind farm has been delayed, and a British project to turn sugarcane milling residues into energy has been hampered by the recent poor harvest, Cuba’s worst in more than 100 years, Piñon said.
Even more damaging was the government’s failure to invest in maintaining the aging power grid.
“I’m not an alarmist but for the first time in a long time I’m really worried,” Piñon told CNN. “You have a number of cumulative effects that can’t be fixed with band-aids. We’re talking about major multi-billion dollar structural investments that could take years to fix.”
Cuban officials recognize that major repairs are not on the horizon and that the best they can do is to keep tinkering with existing factories and importing all the fuel they can.
“The power plants have consumed more of the small amount of fuel we have,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in a televised address in June, “essentially diesel which costs us a lot of work to get and means our power generation is affected, as well as important economic activities.”
Amid power cuts, Cubans complain that public transport is increasingly scarce and government fumigators don’t have the fuel to spray widely against dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Drivers who use diesel for their cars and trucks are now waiting days at state-run stations to refuel.
At a Havana train station, a long line of cars and trucks stood ready for the next shipment of diesel.
People played dominoes or slept in their cars to pass the time. Leading drivers said they waited more than eight days to refuel. They said they devised a system using the WhatsApp messaging app to virtually hold a line, but were told by Cuban police they had to be there in person.
“We can’t go,” Iván said as he waited to refuel his battered 1958 Buick. “If you leave, someone else takes your place and you have to go back to the beginning and start all over again.”