before the supply runs out
The frenzy to stock up on food, candles and other necessities before things get worse starting October 1st was palpable.
HAVANA TIMES – “We are not out of gas,” said Vicente de la O Levy, the minister of Energy and Mining during Wednesday’s special broadcast of the television interview program Mesa Redonda (Roundtable). If his intention was to reassure the public, he failed. The drastic measures adopted by several provinces to curb energy consumption, the intentionally ambiguous statements by government officials on the program — they acknowledged the supply is “tight” – and the daily experiences of Cubans themselves have sent the country into panic mode.
This publication has received reports from Havana residents in the midst of a buying frenzy. They describe stocking up on food, candles and other essential items before October 1st. According to rumors on social media and in neighborhood groups, this date marks the beginning of a “very complicated period caused by a lack of foreign reserves needed to buy raw materials from abroad,” as explained in one message posted on WhatsApp.
Later on Wednesday night, Cuban television broadcast Lista de Espera (The Waiting List), a 2000 comedy directed by Juan Carlos Tabío. “It’s so people get used to the creative resistance of waiting for days at a station and, in the process, they laugh, paint the building and do their bit of humor while they kill time,” says a Nuevo Vedado resident bitterly.
The area experienced a four-hour blackout on Thursday. “Service was affected yesterday due to shortage of generating capacity from 2:24 AM until 7:27 AM, from 9:51 AM till 2:39 PM, and from 4:05 PM till 12:12 AM,” the Cuban Electrical Union announced in its daily briefing on Thursday. Today, a 480-megawatt shortage is expected with a 550-megawatt impact during hours of high demand, so more power outages are expected.
The recently privatized bakery near the corner of Carlos III and Castillejo in Central Havana was closed on Thursday, a situation customers thought was unlikely to be coincidental. “At the moment we don’t have bread,” explained an employee. “Why would that be? Did they order the ovens turned off? Was there is no transportation for the flour?” an old man asked skeptically without receiving an answer.
On the streets of Havana, the sense of crisis is palpable, especially at service stations. At one on the corner of San Rafael and Infanta streets in Central Havana, the line for gas was actually two lines. The one on San Rafael was for vehicles waiting for special gasoline and the one on Infanta was for regular gas.
The scene at a station on G and 25th streets in Vedado was similar, with cars and motorcyles lined up, vehicle after vehicle. “Go down to G Street, turn on 23rd, then turn again on F,” explained one driver to another, who had stopped to ask if the line was actually moving or not.
Meanwhile, at the building that houses the the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment in the Plaza of the Revolution district, office workers could be seen in front of fans, drowning in the heat, with the lights off. “They look like caves,” observed one passerby on Friday.
“The traffic lights at Carlos III and Infanta haven’t been working since this morning and the line for gas at Infanta turns onto Zanja Street,” a young man from the neighborhood tells this reporter.
What is still moving forward is construction on what promises to be the tallest building in Havana — the so-called K Tower, also known as Lopez-Calleja Tower in honor of the late president of the military-run business conglomerate Gaesa (who was Raul Castro’s former son-in-law) — judging by the elevators and construction cranes in operation.
In its shadow, along the heavily traveled 23rd Avenue, another line is growing, this one of passengers. “It’s always the same with the buses,” complains a student, who cannot board one because it is already full. Upon hearing him, an elderly man blurts out, “Grow up and move to Miami.”