Business & Economy

Power outages now part of daily routine in crisis-hit Venezuela

By Sarai Coscojuela

Caracas, Aug 31 (EFE).- Venezuelans in different parts of the country have complained for years about constant power outages lasting hours and even days, but they are still waiting for the government to provide a solution to a problem it has frequently blamed on sabotage.

Electrical engineer and former Deputy Energy Minister Victor Poleo told Efe that supply currently comes mainly from the giant Guri hydroelectric power station in the southeastern state of Bolivar, even though only nine of its 20 turbines are now functioning.

Some “residual” supply may come from thermoelectric sources, he added.

“The supply meets one of every two megawatts of national demand, a reduced demand that is around 10,000 MW due to displaced Venezuelans and shuttered businesses and industries, (whereas absent a years-long recession it) would have been at least 20,000 MW in 2021,” Poleo said.

In July 2019, most of Venezuela suffered a blackout that lasted nearly a week.

President Nicolas Maduro said the massive power cut was due to an “electromagnetic” attack against the power system carried out by the United States, which earlier that year had imposed sanctions on the country’s lifeblood oil industry and recognized the then-head of Congress, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s rightful interim president.

The Committee for People Affected by Blackouts told local media in early August that a total of 96,291 power outages have been reported thus far this year and 37,986 electrical appliances have been damaged.

William Rodriguez, a 79-year-old Caracas resident, said electrical service in Venezuela is “dreadful.”

“One time I was without electricity for 35 days. Not 35 hours, 35 days,” Rodriguez told Efe, adding that he was able to salvage the food in his refrigerator thanks to the help of neighbors unaffected by the long outage.

He added that a Venezuelan can “be with the revolution,” referring to the socialist program of Maduro, in office from 2013 to the present, and his mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who was president from 1999 until his death from cancer in 2013. “But the utilities are no good.”

Josefina Herrera, a 54-year-old resident of Caracas, told Efe for her part that she has been without electricity for the past 24 hours and said the level of service is poor in general.

“Sometimes it’s a serious problem when (the power) goes. The appliances can become damaged” in a sudden power surge after electricity is restored. “And getting them fixed later is a problem.”

According to Ramon Piñango, a 60-year-old retiree, the “electricity goes out too often.” And although the outages are not continuous, he told Efe he once went nearly three days without electrical service.

“The refrigerator had to be unplugged, and what was inside was lost,” he said.

A “formidable” National Electric System was planned and built in the second half of the 20th century, according to Poleo, “the cornerstone of which were the Macagua, Guri and Caruachi hydroelectric developments on the Caroni River (that provide) clean, renewable and abundant energy.”

“But the 21st century has been one of shortages of electricity, a return to barbarism,” the engineer said, adding that Venezuela’s government has largely failed to maintain or invest in its electrical system since 2005.

The engineer said the electrical crisis should be on the agenda of ongoing talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition that began in Mexico City on Aug. 13.

“The goal should be for (state power company) Corpolec, founded in 2007 as the result of the merger of state-owned and privately owned power companies” to be split away from the Venezuelan government.

That would be the best way to achieve a return to normality in terms of electrical service, Poleo said. EFE

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