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LatinNews Regional Monitor: Andean Group - 27 March 2019

VENEZUELA: Country plunged into intermittent darkness again

On 26 March, the working day and classes were suspended across Venezuela on government orders, as the country suffered from a second day of intermittent electricity blackouts.

Analysis:

These electricity shortages come less than two weeks after a week-long blackout, the longest in Venezuela’s history, came to an end. They confirm the breakdown in the country’s electrical infrastructure, putting further pressure on the de facto government led by Nicolás Maduro, who continues to maintain that the country’s electricity system is the victim of sabotage. The blackouts also exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation and increase social unrest, with fears that water and food shortages could lead to widespread ransacking and looting as during the first blackout earlier this month.

  • Maduro’s information & communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez, has said that the electricity system suffered two acts of sabotage on 25 March, the second being a criminal fire at the Guri hydroelectric plant in the eastern state of Bolívar, which provides over 70% of the country’s electricity. The last blackout, which began on 7 March, had been blamed on a “cyberattack” carried out by the US.
  • The opposition leader and widely recognised self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó has dismissed the government’s explanations for the power cuts as lacking credibility, reminding that the military has been deployed at Guri and power stations across the country for years, precisely to prevent sabotage. Guaidó attributes the power cuts to the mismanagement and corruption of the Maduro administration.  
  • Guaidó said that 57% of the country was without power on 25 March, with at least 17 of Venezuela’s 23 states affected (including the capital Caracas). Life in Caracas has ground to a halt as public transport is paralysed, and 88% of the country was without internet connexion on the evening of 26 March, according to Netblocks, an NGO that monitors internet connectivity. Shopkeepers and businesses across the country have asked that the authorities take measures to prevent a repetition of the looting that took place during the last blackout.
  • Meanwhile, Guaidó’s wife, political activist Fabiana Rosales, is in the US after having visited Peru and Chile, meeting with the Venezuelan diaspora in these countries as well as political leaders. Rosales recently said that many Venezuelans abroad are preparing to return to their country, as they begin to see an end in sight to the crisis. 

Looking Ahead: Rosales will meet with US Vice President Mike Pence today (27 March), who is expected to reiterate US support to Guaidó. International support will be needed in the long term, as academics gathered in Colombia yesterday reminded that the transition to economic and political stability in Venezuela would likely take years.