Business & Economy

Power blackouts interfering with Cubans’ daily lives

By Raquel Martori

Havana, Aug 21 (EFE).- The daily waves of power blackouts in Cuba are forcing residents to change – and creating instability in – their day to day lives, from cooking to washing to watching television and using the air conditioning, and are causing private businesses to suffer economic losses.

“You have to do everything you can when you have electricity. Above all, you have to hurry in preparing food. And if I need to use the washing machine to do so before the (power cut) comes,” Belkis, a resident of the northern city of Cardenas, told EFE.

The city has been experiencing blackouts for months, just like other parts of Cuba, a problem that has been getting worse in recent weeks.

Currently, Belkis said that in her area they are enduring six hours each day without any electricity, in two stretches: from 6 to 9 am and from 1 to 6 pm.

But the “worst day” for her, she said, is the alternative scheduling of the blackouts – from 9 am to 1 pm and again from 5 to 8 pm – at other times.

Belkis, who lives with her son and her 90-plus-year-old mother, said that her situation is “very difficult” and she felt sorry for some of her friends, who before going to work “have to get everything done that they can” at home, meaning that they have to do their household chores “the night before or in the early morning.”

The only alternative she said she sees is “to take maximum advantage of the scheduled hours that are free from blackouts.”

The energy crisis, one of Cuba’s biggest challenges at this time, is threatening to become chronic. The first alarms began sounding in May and since then the power cuts have not ceased and are getting longer.

In July, there were blackouts on 29 of the month’s 31 days, while in August a similar situation is developing, according to figures from the Cuban Electricity Conglomerate (UNE) examined by EFE.

Havana, which had been avoiding the big power cuts experienced by other regions, in August began being included on the blackout schedule after residents of other areas criticized the fact that it had been exempted.

In addition, the capital has also been unable to avoid unscheduled blackouts. Last Thursday night, for instance, the majority of Havana’s 15 municipalities were left in the dark for two hours due to a power failure at a local substation.

Yanara told EFE that she felt “fatalistic” over this new reversal for her business.

This businesswoman, who had been tenaciously operating a beauty salon as her means of livelihood in the Havana municipality of Playa, said that her customers and employees are “disgusted” by the ongoing blackouts that prevent them from getting or providing the proper service.

“Your business is on the line,” the 42-year-old hair stylist said, noting that her establishment had already been hit hard during the obligatory lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with this new situation, she’s “depressed” and is suffering “psychological damage,” she said.

“We depend on electricity all the time for this work. From drying people’s hair, … providing hair styling, and the equipment for manicures and facial treatments,” she said.

To that must be added that “when you apply a chemical product like keratin, you’re risking losing it if you can’t use the hair-styling iron and it’s a loss amid the shortage caused by inflation in the country,” she said, adding: “That sends me into a panic.”

She also lamented the fact that on the last few Saturdays she had to cancel her appointments because of unexpected power outages. “The announced (blackout) program was not followed,” Yanara complained, saying that the situation created “a total loss” for her business on those days.

Voices like those of Belkis and Yanara are echoed by thousands of other Cubans who are complaining about the difficulties in their daily lives caused by the blackouts, some of them lasting more than eight hours and even up to 20 hours on one particular recent day.

The UNE’s Facebook profile contains a long list of complaints from Cuban citizens asserting that they can’t sleep without their fans or AC and others who say that they’ve lost the food in their refrigerators after power cuts and complaining that they can’t use their rice cookers or watch TV.

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