HAVANA, CUBA- There is no end to Pinar del Rio’s recovery work following Hurricane Ian. The latest update from the Electric Company in the province indicates that there are still 3,673 people without electricity almost 50 days after the hurricane hit La Coloma, the island’s westernmost point.
As per official data, Pinar del Rio has 235,311 customers, 231,638 (98.44%) of whom have been able to recover electricity from their bills. However, people in San Juan y Martinez, the tobacco cradle of the Island, and San Luis continue to be without electricity.
“We buy food for one day, because if you keep it for two or three days, it spoils. We have to go to Pinar del Río (22 kilometres away) and get it ’from the left’ [’under the table’] or pay for it in MLC (freely convertible currency) because at the bodega (ration store) there isn’t any,” a resident from San Juan y Martínez told the Spanish agency EFE this weekend.
In her electric kitchen – like many in Cuba – she has been buying coal and oil or cutting firewood for more than a month to be able to cook.
The report mentions other shortages in Pinar del Rio as well. José Ariel continues to live in a half-fallen-down house without electricity. His first government visit came one day before he was interviewed by EFE, and the outcome could not have been worse.
“We said we needed cement but (they said) there was none.” They told us: ’you already have a roof, you already have a home’, and they don’t give you anything,” complains this fisherman who managed to put up some zinc plates as a roof with the help of neighbors and now must nail wood over the windows to cover the holes.
“We paid about 2,500 pesos for some pipes that arrived,” he added. Power was restored two weeks ago in his case, but the rest is a disaster.
In San Juan y Martinez, 79-year-old Caridad Martinez survives by selling honey in her doorway. As a result, her bed is soaked because she cannot get cement to plaster her ceiling.
“They told me that there was no need to give me anything,” said the retiree, also outraged by the resellers who proliferate on networks trying to sell the construction materials they manage to obtain illegally at unbearable prices. “They’re not ashamed; look, it’s already difficult to get things, but this is taking advantage of people,” she said.
It has been acknowledged by the government that it will be very difficult to obtain all of the materials in the short term for the reconstruction of the more than 108,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the hurricane, of which only 7,000 have been repaired.
“More than a month after the hurricane, we are still discussing the same problems that we addressed on the first day,” President of the National Assembly of People’s Power Esteban Lazo said on one of many visits the leaders have made to the area, perhaps to calm the waters.
On the same weekend, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel sent a message to Pinareos that contrasted with some eyewitness reports that neighbors posted online, in press comments, or press complaints.
“The recovery from the effects caused by Hurricane Ian continues. In Cuba no one is left homeless,” the president said, sharing a tweet from the Minister of Energy and Mines in which he had written: “We continue to work until we reach everyone. Our workers have experienced the affection of a people who know about solidarity and commitment.”
After the dismissal of Liván Arronte, Vicente de la O Levy, chief of the branch, reported that by Saturday, 97.74% of customers had electricity, and Santiago de Cuba’s linemen, who have been working on recovering thousands of cables and fallen poles for weeks, have made progress.
“What I still don’t understand is why they haven’t restored the electricity in Mantua, which has the generation plants for the municipality. They should do something because we know that they use the profits like they want,” a Facebook user claimed, writing about the province’s electricity company.
“Please, can anyone tell me when they are going to turn on the power in the Pepe Chepe neighborhood like they did at La Espa?” says another. “Will they deign to pass at least through the P 990 circuit on Sol Street? With so many brigades distributed in Pinar, some could at least pass through here,” adds another.
Moreover, after the power is restored, Pinareos will realize that their troubles are far from over, as another user expressed. “They are working like crazy to reach 100% so they can start with the scheduled blackouts.”