Cuba’s continuing economic turmoil has become so bad that Havana will begin electricity blackouts by next week. It has cancelled carnival and is taking other measures as the country’s energy crisis worsens, state media reported on Saturday.
The capital, home to a fifth of the population of 11.2 million and centre of economic activity, had been spared the daily power outages of four or more hours that the rest of the island has endured for months.
Blackouts have sparked a few small local protests this summer and a year ago fuelled a day of unprecedented unrest across the country as discontent boiled over.
For now, a schedule of power outages will mean each of Havana’s six municipalities will have its electricity cut every three days during peak mid-day hours, according to the local Communist Party daily, Tribuna de la Habana, which reported on a meeting of local authorities.
The blackouts reflect a deepening economic crisis that began with harsh new US sanctions on the island in 2019 and worsened with the pandemic that gutted tourism, and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Soaring prices for food, fuel and shipping have exposed import dependence and vulnerabilities such as a decaying infrastructure. The country’s economy declined 10.9 percent in 2020, recovering just 1.3 percent last year.
Cubans have withstood more than two years of food and medicine shortages, long lines to purchase scarce goods, high prices and transportation woes. The blackouts have only added to the frustration, leading to an exodus of more than 150,000 Cubans since October to the United States, and more elsewhere.