HAVANA, Aug. 8th This Monday a new explosion was recorded in the fuel depots of the city of Matanzas. The fact, which occurs after a third tank collapsed today in the industrial zone, and where a serious industrial fire, unprecedented since Friday, is still active, deepens the acute electricity crisis on the island.
The blackouts have become the main challenge of the Cuban dictatorship, according to experts, who highlight the burden they pose to an economy already in crisis, the impossibility of stopping them in the short term and their ability to fuel social discontent.
It is a devilish problem: tremendously expensive, without simple or quick solutions, with enormous ramifications that spill over into the entire Cuban economy and society, and elements beyond the reach of the regime, six economists, historians, political scientists, and lawyers told Efe.
“It is evident that the energy situation has gotten out of hand,” says former Cuban diplomat and political scientist Carlos Alzugaray.
The country’s thermoelectric plants –responsible for two-thirds of the energy– are obsolete and lack spare parts, maintenance and investment. In addition, they require fuel at a time when Cuba has great difficulties in obtaining oil, due to its financial problems and the difficulties of Venezuela, its main supplier.
The regime “has no cards to play: the system is in crisis, there is no long-term solution in sight and they have to try to manage this as best they can,” says Michael J. Bustamante, associate professor of history at the University of Miami.
Cuban economist Tamarys Lien Bahamonde describes the situation as “a building about to fall that suffers an earthquake.”
Ella Bahamonde recalls that blackouts not only affect homes – in the 2000s the regime undertook an “energy revolution” in which it installed electric stoves in thousands of houses – but also businesses and the agri-food sector.
The Cuban lawyer and doctoral student at the University of Salamanca (Spain) Luis Carlos Battista speaks of the “chain effect” that blackouts have on the economy, weighing down from tourism to transportation, passing through commerce and consumption.
Pavel Alejandro Vidal, associate professor at the Javeriana University of Cali (Colombia), agrees with Bahamonde and Battista and emphasizes that energy “is the basis of everything.” “I imagine that they should be concerned because of all the problems that exist, the most dangerous, the most worrying and the main one is the generation deficit because there is no way out.”
Cuba entered a new stage in the current energy crisis with the cuts in the capital province of Havana, which began this week with a distribution of four hours every three days by districts.
In July alone, blackouts were recorded on 29 of the 31 days of the month, according to data from the state-owned Electric Union (UNE) collated by Efe. In some localities, the cuts exceeded ten consecutive hours.