CubaBrief: Protests Reported in Wake of Hurricane Ian. Cuban govt shuts down Internet and mobilizes oppressors. Cubans ask hotel owners in Cuba to make room for storm victims.

A woman points to damage in her roof, above the second story, caused by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ramon Espinosa AP

Category 3 Hurricane Ian battered the west of Cuba on September 26th, and an already crumbling national electrical grid collapsed leaving Cubans without electricity. However GAESA’s hotels continued to have electricity and were promoting tourism to the island in the aftermath of the storm on September 29th.

Reports of protests underway are emerging across Cuba. Diaz-Canel fled from an encounter with Cuban citizens in Batabanó. Cubans repudiated the selected Cuban President, and his convoy sped out of the area.

Why are Cubans upset? Whereas hotels across the island are already operating normally, most Cubans are still in the dark without electricity. Food has already been hard to come by due to the Cuban dictatorship’s internal blockade, and whatever meager amounts they have are rotting.

The Center also received reports of expanded military presence in the streets in the neighborhoods of Arroyo, Cerro, and Guinera in Havana. Cubalex, the Cuban human rights NGO that provides legal assistance to Cubans, shared an image of a street lined with police cars.

14ymedio reported and HAVANA TIMES translated to English that the Castro regime had “cut off internet access Thursday evening after protests continued in some parts of the capital. To the demonstrations in Cerro and Arroyo Naranjo another one began in San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of San Miguel del Padron.”

Andrea RodrÍguez, the AP correspondent in Cuba, reported  that “an Associated Press journalist saw a total of about 400 people gathered in at least two spots in the Cerro neighborhood shouting, “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.”

​Havana shuts down internet following sustained protests in Cuba.

Newsweek journalist Jack Dutton reported at 4:10am on September 30th that “people in Cuba have been protesting for 48 hours, according to multiple media reports, after the power went out due to Hurricane Ian and the internet has also reportedly been cut. Early on Friday, internet shutdown monitor NetBlocks.org posted on Twitter, showing a near total collapse of internet traffic from the Caribbean island.”

The Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) in a Twitter thread called on the international community to support the Cuban people and called on the Cuban government to respect the rights of Cuban protesters. “There must not be a repeat of police and paramilitaries firing on unarmed civilians to terrorize populace as was done in July 2021,” admonished CFC.

The Hotel Nacional of Cuba reported on September 29th over Twitter that all services were “available to our guests.” They added that “some of the clients have even joined in cleaning and tidying up the outdoor areas.”

The Miami Herald reported on September 27th that “on Monday [September 26th], several prominent Cubans and Cuban Americans signed a petition asking the heads of Meliá Hotels International, Iberostar, Kempinski, NH Hotel Group and other foreign hotel chains operating in Cuba to ‘make room for Cuban families, most of them with children, who will be left destitute and homeless as a result of Ian.’ Cuban activist Rosa María Payá, musician Paquito de Rivera, Modesto Maidique, former president of Florida International University, and the Reverend Jose Conrado of the Parish of Trinidad in Cuba, led the appeal.”

Four days later, and no response has been received from these hotels.

During natural disasters in the United States, when public shelters have been overwhelmed, hotels have been used as a temporary housing solution.

The failure of the Cuban communist government to provide solutions for the Cuban people, and 63 years of dictatorship may be reaching a breaking point. Below are some of the protests over the past 24 hours, and the regime’s repressive response.

Cubans force Diaz-Canel’s motorcade to flee and shout him down in Bataban, Cuba on September 29, 2022.

Protests breaking out in #Cuba in the area of El Cerro y Arroyo Naranjo, Havana, Cuba

Protests in San Francisco de Paula, before arriving in Cotorro

Trucks, filled with government agents, and police cars drive through neighborhood in Cuba.

Newsweek, September 30, 2022

World

Cuba Protests Reported as Internet Use Drops Off in Wake of Hurricane Ian

By Jack Dutton On 9/30/22 at 4:10 AM EDT

Children play with the waves at the Malecon in Havana, on September 29, 2022, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Electricity and internet has been cut in Cuba and there have been reports of protests. Yamil Lage/AFP

People in Cuba have been protesting for 48 hours, according to multiple media reports, after the power went out due to Hurricane Ian and the internet has also reportedly been cut.

Early on Friday, internet shutdown monitor NetBlocks.org posted on Twitter, showing a near total collapse of internet traffic from the Caribbean island.

Havana Times, an independent blog, reported that the Cuban government cut off internet access on Thursday after protests continued in some parts of the capital.

“Mainly women and young people staged a sit-in on a street in San Francisco de Paula while hitting pots and pans. They demanded electric power, which has been missing since the National Electric System collapsed Tuesday after Hurricane Ian,” the blog post wrote.

An Associated Press journalist saw around 400 people gathered in at least two spots in the Cerro neighborhoods in Havana, shouting “We want light, we want light,” while loudly banging pans and pots.

Ian hit Cuba on Tuesday night, knocking out all of its power grid. At least three people were killed in the storm, which has wreaked a huge amount of damage on the island. Ian has since swept through Florida.

In July last year, Cuba saw its biggest protests in decades against its communist government.

This is a developing story.

https://www.newsweek.com/cuba-protests-reported-internet-use-drops-off-wake-hurricane-ian-1747766


The Washington Post, September 30, 2022

Small protests appear in Havana over islandwide blackout

By Andrea RodrÍguez | AP

September 30, 2022 at 1:14 a.m. EDT

An electric company worker mounted on a crane uses a machete to cut away tree branches felled on power lines in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

HAVANA — A few hundred Cubans took to the streets Thursday night in Havana demanding the restoration of electricity, protesting more than two days after a blackout hit the entire island following the passage of Hurricane Ian.

It was the first public outpouring of anger after electricity problems spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit, and knocked out all of the island’s power grid Tuesday night, leaving its 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.

In addition to power problems Thursday in Havana, internet service was out and cellphones did not work.

Groups that monitor internet access confirmed to the AP the internet disruption in the island.

“We can confirm the near-total internet blackout in Cuba,” said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring firm. He said that what his group sees is different than what happened right after the hurricane hit the island.

“We believe the incident is likely to significantly impact the free flow of information amid protests,” he said.

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, describes it as a “total internet blackout” that started at 00:30 GMT.

At a protest on Primellef Street, police arrived but demonstrators remained on one of the corners. About 10 blocks away, on the Calzada del Cerro, other protesters surrounded a work team trying to repair a pole and a light transformer.

The two groups of protesters were still in the streets late into the night, but the gatherings remained peaceful.

In July 2021, Cuba saw its largest social protests in decades. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and U.S. 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.

The government has not said what percentage of the population remained without electricity, but electrical authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million people had power Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, Ivette Garrido shared how she hurried last week to get the 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of subsidized chicken allotted to her family by Cuba’s government and put it in the freezer, happy to have meat to get through Hurricane Ian.

Now she is considering giving the chicken to her three dogs before it goes bad as a huge power blackout caused by the storm extends beyond two days and everything in her freezer thaws amid scorching temperatures.

“We are not having a very good time, trying to survive, to keep things from thawing,” said Garrido, who lives with her mother and a 19-year-old daughter in the town of Cojimar on the outskirts of Havana.

Electricity returned in some parts of Cuba on Wednesday, while it came on then shut off again in other parts. Experts said 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.

“We have never been so long without electricity,” Garrido said. “They put it at 24 hours, at 36, but it’s already been more than 48. It’s criminal. Who is responsible for this?”

She has placed bottles of frozen water that had been in the freezer next to the chicken, along with some pork and sausages, to try to preserve the meat longer. A fan and television also await the return of electricity.

Calls by AP to a dozen people in Cuba’s main cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — found similar problems to Havana, with most reporting their neighborhoods were still without electricity.

Authorities say the total blackout happened because of a failure in the connections between Cuba’s three regions — west, center and east — caused by Ian’s winds.

Cuba’s power grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state as a result of the deterioration of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy’s Latin America and Caribbean program at the University of Texas.

Cuba has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are traditional thermoelectric plants, and five floating power plants rented from Turkey since 2019. There is also a group of small plants distributed throughout the country since an energy reform in 2006.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributed to the lack of funds and U.S. sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel is also a problem.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/cubans-suffer-as-hurricane-caused-power-outage-goes-on/2022/09/29/899ab4d6-4044-11ed-8c6e-9386bd7cd826_story.html

Havana Times, September 29, 2022

New Protests in Cuba, Government Cuts Off Internet

“People have already learned that to solve problems you have to protest,” argues a source. (Collage)

Users on social networks were able to share videos and photos that recorded protests and mobilizations of repressive forces

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban regime cut off internet access Thursday evening after protests continued in some parts of the capital. To the demonstrations in Cerro and Arroyo Naranjo another one began in San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of San Miguel del Padron.

Mainly women and young people staged a sit-in on a street in San Francisco de Paula while hitting pots and pans. They demanded electric power, which has been missing since the National Electric System collapsed Tuesday after Hurricane Ian.

Residents of the capital told 14ymedio that the government has militarized many streets, including the main streets of Centro Habana. A barricade is also reported at Calzada del Cerro and Boyeros where “they are throwing stones and sticks,” said a source close to the Police. Some soldiers have warned drivers to take precautions if they are in that part of the capital.

The intersection of Calzada del Cerro and Boyeros Avenue is one of the busiest in Havana. In addition, Boyeros is one of the main access roads to the Plaza de la Revolucion Complex, where the headquarters of the Cuban Presidency and Government and the Central Committee of the Communist Party are located. It is an area that is always well guarded.

In the afternoon, hundreds of people had also taken to the streets to protest peacefully in Calzada del Cerro, where they prevented vehicular traffic. Likewise, in some neighborhoods of the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

Before the internet blackout, users on social networks were able to share from Cuba some videos and photos that recorded mobilizations of repressive forces in various parts of the country, as happened after the protests of July 11, 2021. Some military vehicles honked their horns to attract attention along with the sirens of the police patrols that were part of the caravans.

“We want the light, we want the light,” the crowd in Cerro chanted, clapping their hands. They gathered between San Pablo and Auditor Streets as seen in videos broadcast on social networks. Several vehicles of the Revolutionary Police were present without intervening.

A local resident who witnessed the crowd, assured 14ymedio that a crane immediately appeared to replace a light pole that had fallen. “People have already learned that to solve problems you have to protest,” argues this source.

However, after 6 pm, another resident of that area said a part of the road remained closed by residents: “The protest continues and no light arrives, nothing.”  Vehicle traffic remains diverted.

In the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo,  protests also occurred in neighborhoods such as Parraga and La Palma. Several users on social networks shared videos and photos of what was happening, along with labels such as #BastaYaDeMentiras, #DíazCanelSingao and #PatriayVida.

In all the materials shared on social networks, you see many women and mothers, who are the ones who suffer most from the lack of electricity, along with the elderly and children in their care.

In a photograph taken in La Palma, two huge rows of police patrols can be seen on each side of a road. Cuban journalist Jose Raul Gallego, based in Mexico, posted when sharing the photo: “Remember: the blockade is from the Communist Party. There is no electricity, there is no oil, there is no food, but there are resources to repress.”

https://havanatimes.org/news/new-protests-in-cuba-government-cuts-off-internet/

The Miami Herald, September 27, 2022

‘Hours of terror’ in Cuba after Ian: Millions without power, massive floods, homes destroyed

By Nora Gámez Torres, Sarah Moreno, and Chase Karacostas

A family waits inside their flooded home in the town of Batabano, in western Cuba, on Sept. 27, 2022, during the passage of hurricane Ian. YAMIL LAGE AFP via Getty Images

Updated September 27, 2022 10:47 PM

A damaged hospital, destroyed homes, downed trees and power poles, and towns where residents wade through waist-deep water. Those are some of the images coming out of Cuba in the aftermath of the destruction left by Category 3 Hurricane Ian, which battered the island’s westernmost provinces Tuesday.

[…]

On Monday, several prominent Cubans and Cuban Americans signed a petition asking the heads of Meliá Hotels International, Iberostar, Kempinski, NH Hotel Group and other foreign hotel chains operating in Cuba to “make room for Cuban families, most of them with children, who will be left destitute and homeless as a result of Ian.”

Cuban activist Rosa María Payá, musician Paquito de Rivera, Modesto Maidique, former president of Florida International University, and the Reverend Jose Conrado of the Parish of Trinidad in Cuba, led the appeal.

[ Full article here ]

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article266411896.html