- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Cuba is experiencing a shortage of electricity, with blackouts this summer expected to average six hours daily, despite President Fidel Castro’s pledge to improve the nation’s power supply.

Recent severe weather caused breakdowns in power plants and damage to transmission lines that affected Havana and other parts of Cuba for several days, state-owned Electric Union of Cuba, or UE, said this month.

UE also warned that blackouts could last on average six hours daily.

“I do not truly believe that we are going to recover — even with the capital maintenance that we are carrying out,” said Yadira Garcia, Cuban minister of basic industry, late last month.

“These plants date back to the 1980s and 1970s. We are still having problems financing the maintenance.

“The technology for these plants, some of which are Soviet and Czech, is really no longer manufactured by the factories that produced certain parts,” the minister said.

The blackouts are similar to those experienced at the end of 2004, when outages lasted an average of 10 hours daily.

Cuban Basic Industry Minister Marcos Portal was dismissed after those outages.

Losses for the 2004 outages were estimated at $200 million, and Cuba conducted a review of state policy to strengthen the electric system.

Mr. Castro said in April that investment in the power industry and new administrative measures would end the blackouts by the end of 2006.

Despite challenges, Mr. Castro pledged during a May television address to modernize the country’s power system.

Efficient use of electricity in Cuba continues to be a challenge for the country. “We could say that much of the electricity in our country is being wasted,” said Vicente de la O, director of the National Electricity Union.

More than 90 percent of Cuba’s electricity, which supplies 11 million Cubans, is generated by nine oil- or gas-powered plants.

Cuba recently has forged oil and gas deals with Brazilian, French, Canadian, Spanish and Venezuelan companies.

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