Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
¡Ay, Cuba! Electricity blackouts return
Poor Cuba. Every time its economy seems to get back on its feet, it's slugged by another right hook.
Cubans are once again being asked to tighten their belts as the Cuban economy and export profits have shrunk dramatically in the past year (for example, the price of nickel–Cuba's chief export– has fallen more than 50 percent in the past year), while the budget deficit has soared. Last week, Raúl Castro announced draconian austerity measures, while laying the blame on Cuban workers for slacking.
Energy conservation measures have been implemented as part of a broader plan to slash the national budget by six percent. Apagones (electricity blackouts) have been implemented. The power-saving focus so far has been on state-run businesses and factories, which now close at peak hours. Office hours have been cut. Many workers have been put on a two-day work week. And state-subsidized workers canteen lunches have been axed to save power. Meanwhile, air-conditioners and fans suddenly stop in the dead of noon heat, causing further grief to listless, sweltering workers.
It's a real Catch-22. Factory production is down as a result, further worsening Cuba's plight. Even an important dairy factory in Ciengfuegos has been ordered to cut production, thus affecting supplies of ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.
Meanwhile, Cuba has begun to resell to overseas markets the free petroleum that Venezuela President Hugo Chavez gifts to Cuba (the country imported 93,000 Venezuelan barrels of oil daily in 2008, and produced some domestically 52,000). It is having to do so to raise much needed capital. Canada's Sherritt corporation even suspended oil drilling in Cuba earlier this year because the country fell behind on payments to the company (the two have since worked out a solution).
Meanwhile, the nation is also struggling to recover from three hurricanes that brutalized Cuba last year, causing more than $10 billion in damage and destroying as many as 250,000 homes.