that desperately needs change
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Anyone living in Cuba can testify to the disaster we are experiencing, of this dysfunctional and dead-end system that is called “continuity”, which doesn’t work but has been adopted as government policy. Daily experiences give you a definitive picture of the scenario.
For months now, we’ve been plagued with all too regular and long blackouts, which are distributed out mostly to municipalities to prevent greater unease in denser populations, which are more likely to conduct protests, and these are harder to put into check. But now in August, supposedly far from the dangerous month of July, it’s been decided that blackouts will also become frequent in important cities too, including Havana.
A blackout schedule was published in Holguin on Monday August 8th, which includes the provincial capital and divides the province into three large electricity blocks that are affected in four-hour-long blackouts, for 4, 8, 6 and 6 consecutive hours, to make up the 24 hours in the day.
As a result, every block and circuit is cut for 10 hours in one day (the first blackout is 4 hours long and the one at the end of the day is 6 hours day), the next day they will have blackouts for 8 hours, and then for 6 hours on the third day to then continue on the cycle. The regulation and standardization of these blackouts prove, in addition to their planning, that they are here to stay.
The day the schedule began, on Monday, it couldn’t be met because there was an unexpected and record electricity generation deficit of over 1400 MW. Blackouts have extended to 13 hours long and switched off blocks had to be joined together.
In addition to daily faults of many blocks at different power plants, the Antonio Guiteras plant in Matanzas is now out of service too, which has been affected by the quality of water it uses in the process, due to efforts linked to the fire at the neighboring Super Tanker Terminal. The latter was an incident of catastrophic dimensions that makes the already complicated Cuban situation even harder.
This is the reason why we haven’t had bread available as part of the ration booklet -the only bread we can find here in Holguin really-, plus flour shortages, like there have been so many times in the past. I don’t know whether there is flour in the rest of the country for private pastry chefs, bakers and biscuit makers to make and sell their products, but there isn’t any here. The State has practically nothing to meet basic demands and the self-employed are working with whatever they are able to “hustle” at state-owned warehouses and bakeries.
Milk comes late and goes off, because of no electricity for pasteurizers or fuel for the means of transport to distribute it. Water pumping has also been affected because of blackouts and because supply isn’t stable, but is based on a schedule, there are further consequences.
How do you distribute this in the few hours we have of electricity? What chance do more remote homes have of their owners making it back home before it’s cut off again. Also, how do you pump water stored in basement cisterns without electricity, when there are such long blackout hours?
Land has become fallow because of a lack of fuel for tractors, which are only a few, but there are still more of them then there are oxen because animals have been stolen more and more. Farmers are planting less and less because they are afraid of thieves and the ups and downs of the market because of supplies and the loss of labor with migration. They are only producing enough for themselves to get by, and in some cases a little more.
Migration is a plan that is discussed in every family, and sometimes by entire families. There are swarms of ads in sales groups on Facebook, selling off homes with everything inside, indicative of a whole family planning on leaving. People are burning their bridges and fleeing this country in ruins, without a dash of hope in the system or its ability to change.
Business owners are one of the social groups that migrate the most, as they see their businesses bellyflop and with slim chances of making it or increasing their economic freedom. The Government’s conservative discourse against private enterprise, that says it is encouraging, but is also limiting banned activities and growth rates, is good at convincing the Cuban people that migration is the best option.
These “banned” activities are the most dynamic ones, that could guarantee the right conditions for the private sector to take off as a whole. People without producing because of no electricity and supplies, both at home in private businesses, as well as state companies. The population is paralyzed and Cuba is sinking further and further.
While the Government is announcing a slew of measures that are more desires than strategy, and then buying USD that enter Cuba without regard for any economic activity. Foreign currency that already has a natural market in the illicit market and migration.
They are trying to hinder this market by buying and not selling, but the only thing they’ll achieve with this is driving up foreign currency value even further, pressured by the demand the Government is still unable to satisfy. This will mean higher inflation and last but not least, a heavier burden for the Cuban people.
A Dantesque and desperate situation, in short, that doesn’t seem to have a way out with a continuity that doesn’t work. It’s clear that the only way out is to push for change from within the system (beyond a possible social uprising that puts an end to the regime with the hope that changing the system will be the best, and that a temporary period of ungovernability results in unwanted calamities).
However, it’s surprising that we still can’t see any signs that the ship is going to change course even with the vast iceberg that will sink us completely already in front of us, ready for the fatal collision. Let’s hope that this change of direction comes in time.