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Lighting the path forward

cubanos en VenezuelaWhile imperialism chooses sabotage and chaos, Cuban professionals, collaborating in Venezuela’s electricity sector for the last nine years, opt for the light of development.

Awaiting us at the entrance to the giant thermoelectric plant, Planta Centro, the largest of its type in Venezuela, is Oraima Daniel Gómez, who answered our first question:

What is a Cuban women doing, so far from home, working in the arena facing the most sabotage, here in the land of Chávez?

“There are few women in the energy mission, but we make our presence known. The men respect us; they count on our professionalism and dedication to the job. We are part of a very hard-working team that has as its greatest strength, its light, that we are Cubans, and no one can take this away from us,” she replied.

Along the way, you have faced an enemy: sabotage…

“That’s right, the situation changed, but we continue the task. We have plenty of experience in Cuba with the enemy’s persecution, and here we act no differently: we continue focused on the mission and there is no doubt we will complete it,” Oraima insisted.

Engineer Leonardo Tundidor Grande described the plant for us: With its six units and a capacity of 2,600 megawatts, Planta Centro produces the equivalent of all the electricity generated in Cuba, and Unit 5 alone, which Cuban personell is helping to restore, supplies 400 megawatts more than any thermoelectric in Cuba, but U.S. sanctions have practically paralyzed the plant, and only Unit 6 is operating at 50% capacity.

“Maintenance work on Unit 5, which has been out of service for several years, is the biggest job the Electrical Union (UNE) has taken on outside of Cuba,” explained Tundidor, head of the Planta Centro-UNE Cuba project, “which includes 32 Cubans, mechanical, electrical, and automation professionals, plus operators,” he said.

Over the years, the unit suffered many breakdowns, and in April of 2010, Cuba accepted the task of repairing it, including its electrical components and auxiliary equipment. The contingent is now working on the turbine and the steam cauldron, which are almost ready.

“If all the financial resources are assured, within four months, the generator could be started up, and these 400 megawatts will be a big help, given the country’s situation,” Tundidor added.

For his part, Venezuelan engineer Carlos El Hara, his country’s coordinator for the Unit 5 project, recalled that the task of rehabilitating the generator was originally in the hands of the transnational corporation General Electric, and that in meetings with his colleague Tundidor, they agreed that they had the ability to do the work on their own, and the job began.

“It’s almost ready. The end of the month, we’ll begin the washing and blow-out of the cauldrons, with personnel already contracted. We are projecting the unit’s start-up in August, which will mean total stability in the northeastern system and give the entire electrical grid more stability,” he stated.

“As long as there are those who want to put your country in the dark, there are Cubans to defend the current,” I remind them.

“That’s excellent! Anyone who comes to help Venezuela is welcome. I know that, in the end, the work will succeed, and even better if is done among brothers and sisters,” the Venezuelan engineer added.

Fifty kilometers to the south of Planta Centro, another 13 professionals in from the Cuban energy mission continue their consulting work at the distributed generation plant in Guacara. The young Venezuelan operator María Marval says: “Since they arrived, they have been fundamental. Without their help, we wouldn’t be generating. They share their knowledge serenely. They have helped us a a great deal.”

Yojanner Cuevas Fernández from Guantanamo, the lead advisor here in Guacara, explained, “With the 95.2 megawatts generated here at Guacara and the 104.8 from Tucacas, in the state of Falcón, we have a 200 megawatt project that produces energy for the national electrical grid. This past November, technological responsibility was transferred to Venezuelan personnel, and a few Cubans remain to provide technical assistance and advice.”

“Since the sabotage at the Simón Bolívar hydroelectric plant, we have had to work in isolation, that is separated from the national electrical energy system and assume generation on the basis of a substation, for the residential sector in

Carabobo,” Cuevas continued.

- How do you deal with your work being targeted by the right and imperialism?

“It must be faced with political conviction and responsibility. This is a task that the homeland assigned us, on the initiative of Comandantes Fidel and Chávez, and we are giving it continuity.”

- How do you defend the people’s light and the Bolivarian Revolution?

“We suffer just like the Venezuelan people, and in our trench, generating electricity, we assume everything with commitment. We are going to maintain the stability and availability of the plant, continue to advise and train Venezuelans to leave them well prepared when the project ends. We are working very hard to ensure that light prevails.”

With 27 years of experience, Cuban operator Leonel Peña Batista confesses that he had never seen sabotage up close. His “professional enemies” were others. “The fight was tough, very hard, coming to the plant at eleven o’clock at night, one in the morning… through dark streets, to try to generate power for the hospital in Guacara, to push ahead alongside Venezuelans… the situation was difficult,” he says.“This has been a great experience,” Peña continued, “It helped me a lot. In Cuba I have faced hurricanes, but nothing like this. One always learns from new experiences. We triumphed and continue giving what we can to our brothers here.”- You defeated imperialism…“We won! All their sabotage, their war against Venezuela were defeated. They used snipers in El Guri, electromagnetic waves, viruses… we defeated all that. Imperialism was betting on a blackout; but we are committed to maintaining this Revolution’s energy,” the Cuban internationalist concludes.


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