CUBA. Havana: Crews restored power to other neighbourhoods across Havana on Saturday after the second night of protests against continued blackouts in the Cuban capital, including some of the largest demonstrations since large-scale anti-government rallies in July 2021.
For the second night in a row, late on Friday, Cubans took to the streets of Havana to demonstrate against the ongoing blackouts in numerous areas. These were some of the biggest one-day gatherings in the capital since the protracted anti-government protests of last July.
A few hundred people participated in at least one of the demonstrations in the western Playa area, where they screamed: “switch on the lights” and other anti-government slurs at President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
As the demonstrators passed through a dark, heavily populated neighbourhood that has been without electricity since Hurricane Ian hit the island on Tuesday, they at one point started chanting “Libertad,” or “freedom,” in Spanish.
Smaller demonstrations were also reported on social media on Friday night in other parts of Havana. The calm protests seemed to be restricted to the areas where power had not yet been restored.
Most of the city’s residents, who had electricity restored during the day, did not protest on Friday.
“The power is gradually coming back, and that’s good,” said Jorge Mario Gonzalez, a 57-year-old postal worker in Havana. He said the power came back on at his home on Friday. “The government is making great efforts, but it can’t satisfy everyone. We have so many problems.”
When Ian smashed across western Cuba earlier last week, it knocked off electricity for the entire 11 million-person nation. In Havana, a city of more than 2 million people, officials reported that electricity had been restored to more than 60% of clients by midday on Friday, but those who were still without it had grown increasingly worried.
Carlos Felipe Garcia, who was marching shirtless and drenched in perspiration, remarked, “It’s like being in hell.” We will continue to be on the street because of this.
By the end of the weekend, according to officials’ statements on Friday, most of Havana should have its lights back on.
According to a Reuters witness, as the protest in Playa gained momentum, it was met by numerous truckloads of security personnel wearing black berets who blockaded the major boulevard and prevented those marching from advancing.
Later, on a neighbouring street, a sizeable gathering of hundreds of government supporters who were screaming “I am Fidel” in remembrance of the late former leader Fidel Castro, followed behind the demonstrators. The men were armed with sticks, baseball bats, and scrap wood, and many of them were dressed in jeans and t-shirts.