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Cubans protest in darkness

Regional 06 Oct, 2022 Follow News

Protesters are furious over power outages

Havana was completely submerged by Ian

Cubans have taken place on the streets of Havana after Hurricane Ian knocked out power to the entire country on 27 September.

Only parts of the city have had the lights turned back on, inspiring residents to take to darkened streets in protest at the government’s lack of response.

Outside of the capital, much of the island is also still without power, as work crews attempt to repair electricity poles that were damaged in the storm.

The power outage caused by Ian prompted protests in the streets of Cuba’s capital as several hundred people demanded restoration of electricity more than two days after a blackout hit the entire island.

About 400 people gathered Thursday night in at least two spots in the Cerro neighbourhood shouting: “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.

It was the first public display over the electricity problems that spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit, to the entire island, leaving the country’s 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused extensive damage. Power was restored to much of the island within a day after the storm’s blast.

On Thursday, groups that monitor internet access reported a near-total internet blackout in Cuba.

At a protest on Calzada del Cerro, protesters surrounded a work team trying to repair a pole and a light transformer. Protesters were still in the streets late into the night, but the gatherings remained peaceful.

Repeated blackouts on the already fragile grid were among the causes of Cuba’s largest social protests in decades in July 2021. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and US 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.

Cubans complained that the outages forced them to throw out refrigerated meat and other goods that is costly or hard to find.

Experts say 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.

There is evidence in Cuba’s other cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — that there are problems similar to those in Havana, with most reporting their neighbourhoods were still without electricity.

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