Na­tion­wide black­outs nor­mal in Venezuela

The Tribune (SLO) - - News - BY CHRISTO­PHER TORCHIA

An­other day, an­other black­out.

Power went out across Venezuela on Sun­day, just as it did on Satur­day, and the day be­fore that.

But while some elec­tric­ity had re­turned by Sun­day af­ter­noon, jit­tery Venezue­lans weren’t so much cel­e­brat­ing the lights com­ing on as won­der­ing when the next out­ages would flick them off.

“No one can put up with this. We spend al­most all day with­out elec­tric­ity,” said Ka­rina Ca­ma­cho, a 56-year-old housewife who was about to buy a chicken when elec­tronic pay­ment ma­chines stopped work­ing. “There’s been no water since (last) Mon­day, you can’t call by phone, we can’t pay with cards or even eat.”

As the lat­est black­out un­folded, many took to bal­conies and build­ing win­dows to bang pots in protest and shout curses at Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, who they con­sider re­spon­si­ble for the power fail­ures.

Oth­ers re­sponded to a call by op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido to demon­strate against the gov­ern­ment, block­ing roads and burn­ing rub­bish un­til “colec­tivos,” or fre­quently armed gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers, ap­peared to ar­rive on mo­tor­bikes. Some of the protests oc­curred near the Mi­raflo­res pres­i­den­tial palace in Cara­cas, in a di­rect chal­lenge to Maduro.

The on­go­ing black­outs now mark an­other point of ten­sion in a coun­try par­a­lyzed by po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil, com­pound­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and deep­en­ing a pro­longed stand­off be­tween two po­lit­i­cal par­ties vy­ing for power.

Net­blocks, a group mon­i­tor­ing in­ter­net cen­sor­ship, said net­work data showed just 15 per­cent of Venezuela was on­line af­ter the lat­est power cuts struck, while water sup­ply, phone ser­vice and in­ter­net con­tin­ued to be shaky and un­re­li­able.

On Twit­ter, Guaido re­it­er­ated his claim Sun­day that gov­ern­ment ne­glect and cor­rup­tion had had left the elec­tri­cal grid in sham­bles af­ter years of mis­man­age­ment.

“There is no sab­o­tage,” the leader of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional Assem­bly wrote. “They brought the elec­tri­cal sys­tem to a col­lapse be­cause they are cor­rupt and now they can’t re­solve it be­cause they are in­ca­pable.”

Maduro al­leges U.S.-led sab­o­tage is the cause, cit­ing “im­pe­rial ag­gres­sion” with­out of­fer­ing up clear ev­i­dence. On Twit­ter, he en­cour­aged sup­port­ers to re­fer to a bul­letin which ex­plained the elec­tri­cal fail­ure as a re­sult of an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to have Venezuela con­sid­ered a “failed” state.

The United States and dozens of other coun­tries sup­port Guaido’s claim that Maduro’s re-elec­tion last year was il­le­git­i­mate. The U.S. has im­posed oil sanc­tions and other eco­nomic penal­ties on Venezuela in an at­tempt to force him out of power, but he has yet to show signs of back­ing down

The lat­est out­age comes just weeks af­ter Venezuela ex­pe­ri­enced na­tion­wide black­outs on March 7 which shut down schools, of­fices and fac­to­ries and par­a­lyzed nearly ev­ery part of the once oil-rich coun­try of 31 mil­lion.

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