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Venezuela Update: 4 Days Into The Country’s Longest Blackout
By admin March 12, 2019

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On Thursday, the San Geronimo B substation went down, sending Venezuela’s capital city, Caracas, into darkness. Today, 18 of the country’s 23 states remain affected by the outage, food supplies are running short, and it has been reported that the country’s private sector has lost an estimated $400 million as a result of the blackout. Venezuela’s economy has been suffering for years, facing hyperinflation, mounting sanctions, and a diminishing population, but global media outlets are now referring to the effects of this blackout as its biggest humanitarian crisis in decades.

While power outages are a recurring problem in Venezuela, none have been this widespread or prolonged enough to have such a serious impact on the country and its people. According to local media and aid groups, the death toll currently stands at 17, 15 of these were a result of kidney failure in hospitals, although these numbers could not be verified by US sources. In addition to this, public transport has stopped running, flights have been diverted away from the city, and basic goods are running extremely low. These factors, combined with the floods of people leaving Venezuela amid the crisis has left experts uncertain about how long the outages will last, as there may no longer be enough qualified engineers in the country to service the substations, questioning the capability of either Maduro or Guiado, the country’s opposing political leaders, to fully restore power without international assistance.

Furthermore, to add to the rapid advancement of their humanitarian crisis, the blackouts may also cripple the country’s leading industry as PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil firm, has been unable to resume crude exports since last week. No oil export tankers have left port since March 7 and refineries that have the capacity to convert up to 700,000 barrels of Orinoco Belt heavy oil into exportable grades have been operating at minimum levels due to the lack of power. While PDVSA reportedly has a contingency plan that will speed up the resumption of exports, they have made no mention of how the domestic fuel supply is being addressed.

Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, of working with the US to create these blackouts in an attempt to remove him from power. He denounced both groups, promising to defeat the “electric war” being waged against Venezuela as it has been “directed by US imperialism.” Guaido, on the other hand, has branded Maduro’s accusations of a US cyberattack “absurd,” referring to the power failure as a matter of “chaos, concern and indignation.” He further noted that Venezuela’s main power plant is long overdue for maintenance and upgrades, pointing out that the system is analog and not connected to any network, therefore completely ruling out the idea that the grid was sabotaged. He has branded it a catastrophe of “the inefficiency, the incapability [and] the corruption of a regime that doesn’t care about the lives of Venezuelans.”

Maduro and Guaido have clashed as leaders of opposing parties since January 2019, when Guaido declared himself interim president on the grounds that the 2018 election was rigged. He is now supported by the EU, USA and most Latin American countries, and increasing amounts of pressure are being placed on Maduro to step down. However, he has yet to do so, maintaining that the US is creating problems for Venezuela, including the most recent outages, although, the fact this is now dominating global headlines opens up the possibility of aid being safely allowed to cross the country’s borders, despite Maduro’s initial protests, finally getting support and supplies to those who are in need.

 

For more information:

How Venezuela got here: a timeline of the political crisis

No End in Sight to Venezuela’s Blackout, Experts Warn

Rotting food and endangered patients: How Venezuelans are faring during continuing nationwide power outages

‘The electric war’: Major power failure in Venezuela leaves much of the country in the dark

Venezuela blackout halts most oil exports, hits crude upgrading: sources

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says power recovery will come ‘little by little’


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