Small protests appear in Havana over islandwide blackout

Sep 29, 2022, 4:01 PM | Updated: Sep 30, 2022, 5:02 am
An electrical pole leans on felled power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednes...

An electrical pole leans on felled power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country's most important tobacco farms when it hit the island's western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

(AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

HAVANA (AP) — A few hundred Cubans took to the streets Thursday night in Havana demanding the restoration of electricity, protesting more than two days after a blackout hit the entire island following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

An Associated Press journalist saw a total of about 400 people gathered in at least two spots in the Cerro neighborhood shouting, “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.

It was the first public outpouring of anger after electricity problems spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit, and knocked out all of the island’s power grid Tuesday night, leaving its 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.

In addition to power problems Thursday in Havana, internet service was out and cellphones did not work.

Groups that monitor internet access confirmed to the AP the internet disruption in the island.

“We can confirm the near-total internet blackout in Cuba,” said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring firm. He said that what his group sees is different than what happened right after the hurricane hit the island.

“We believe the incident is likely to significantly impact the free flow of information amid protests,” he said.

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, describes it as a “total internet blackout” that started at 00:30 GMT.

At a protest on Primellef Street, police arrived but demonstrators remained on one of the corners. About 10 blocks away, on the Calzada del Cerro, other protesters surrounded a work team trying to repair a pole and a light transformer.

The two groups of protesters were still in the streets late into the night, but the gatherings remained peaceful.

In July 2021, Cuba saw its largest social protests in decades. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and U.S. sanctions, turned out in cities across the island to vent their anger and some also lashed out at the government. Hundreds were arrested and prosecuted, prompting harsh criticism of the administration of President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The government has not said what percentage of the population remained without electricity, but electrical authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million people had power Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, Ivette Garrido shared how she hurried last week to get the 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of subsidized chicken allotted to her family by Cuba’s government and put it in the freezer, happy to have meat to get through Hurricane Ian.

Now she is considering giving the chicken to her three dogs before it goes bad as a huge power blackout caused by the storm extends beyond two days and everything in her freezer thaws amid scorching temperatures.

“We are not having a very good time, trying to survive, to keep things from thawing,” said Garrido, who lives with her mother and a 19-year-old daughter in the town of Cojimar on the outskirts of Havana.

Electricity returned in some parts of Cuba on Wednesday, while it came on then shut off again in other parts. Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid and warned that it will require time and sources — things the country doesn’t have — to fix the problem.

Authorities have promised to work without rest to address the issue.

“We have never been so long without electricity,” Garrido said. “They put it at 24 hours, at 36, but it’s already been more than 48. It’s criminal. Who is responsible for this?”

She has placed bottles of frozen water that had been in the freezer next to the chicken, along with some pork and sausages, to try to preserve the meat longer. A fan and television also await the return of electricity.

Calls by AP to a dozen people in Cuba’s main cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — found similar problems to Havana, with most reporting their neighborhoods were still without electricity.

Authorities say the total blackout happened because of a failure in the connections between Cuba’s three regions — west, center and east — caused by Ian’s winds.

Cuba’s power grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state as a result of the deterioration of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy’s Latin America and Caribbean program at the University of Texas.

Cuba has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are traditional thermoelectric plants, and five floating power plants rented from Turkey since 2019. There is also a group of small plants distributed throughout the country since an energy reform in 2006.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributed to the lack of funds and U.S. sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel is also a problem.

___

Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

___

Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report from Mexico City.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              A man looks at the entrance of a parking garage at a street flooded by the waves that break on the Malecon in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
            
              An electrical pole leans on felled power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country's most important tobacco farms when it hit the island's western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
            An electrical pole leans on felled power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country's most important tobacco farms when it hit the island's western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

AP

FILE - Containers are seen at a port in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu province on Oct. 27, 202...
Associated Press

China November trade sinks under virus pressure, rate hikes

BEIJING (AP) — China’s imports and exports shrank in November as global demand weakened and anti-virus controls weighed on the second-largest economy. Exports sank 9% from a year earlier to $296.1 billion, worsening from October’s 0.9% decline, customs data showed Wednesday. Imports fell 10.9% to $226.2 billion, down from the previous month’s 0.7% retreat. The […]
21 hours ago
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks during a campaign rally at Georgia Tech Monday, Dec. 5, 20...
Associated Press

Why AP called the Georgia Senate runoff for Warnock

There weren’t enough uncounted votes in Republican-leaning areas for GOP challenger Herschel Walker to make up his runoff election night gap with incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. That’s what led The Associated Press to call the race for Warnock late Tuesday. The vast majority of the uncounted votes rested in Democratic strongholds, meaning that Walker […]
21 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden, right, stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting on the s...
Associated Press

US approves $425 million in arms sales to Taiwan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Tuesday signed off on two new significant arms sales to Taiwan in approvals that are sure to rankle China. The State Department said it had okayed sales worth more than $425 million of spare aircraft parts to support Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighters, C-130 transport planes and other […]
21 hours ago
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during an election day canvass launch on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 20...
Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s term and helping cap an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in the last major vote of the year. With Warnock’s second […]
21 hours ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a memorial...
Associated Press

China’s Xi visiting Saudi Arabia amid bid to boost economy

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping is attending a pair of regional summits in Saudi Arabia this week amid efforts to kick-start economic growth weighed down by strict anti-COVID-19 measures. The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six nations that […]
21 hours ago
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., departs after speak during a Congressional Gold Med...
Associated Press

Congress set to rescind COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops

WASHINGTON (AP) — The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military would be rescinded under the annual defense bill heading for a vote this week in Congress, ending a directive that helped ensure the vast majority of troops were vaccinated but also raised concerns that it harmed recruitment and retention. Republicans, emboldened by […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Small protests appear in Havana over islandwide blackout