It felt like five minutes before the New Year, sans the happiness.
In Maracaibo, the only thing people could talk about was that the next day, Monday the 25th, would be the first day of scheduled four-hour rolling blackouts. The air in this sweltering 40-plus-degree city felt as thick as molasses. As if inside a pressure cooker, you just knew something was about to blow.
Starting at around 3 am that day, something literally blew. The lights began to go out. It was raining. If you were lucky enough to still have electricity, you were awake anyway, praying that your appliances would make it through the night. But in the distance, power transformers were heard popping. Some people lost their power for almost half a day. Nobody got much sleep that night.
After all the planning forced upon us by Corpoelec’s schedules, it turned out that some people did not lose power at all. After three days, there are places where nothing seems to be happening. Places such as Tierra Negra remain calm, and 72nd Street – one of the city’s main commercial thoroughfares – is full of traffic, as usual. Some businesses have not opened due to lack of power, but in that area, they are the exception.
Yet in other areas, rage is boiling over. There are tree trunks in the middle of the street, a déja-vu of the 2014 opposition protests. All over town, people are banging pots and pans in protest. At least 20 main roads have been blocked by tires, tree trunks, or garbage. Twenty-four stores have been looted, and another 49 have been attacked in one way or another. One hundred people have been detained, according to official figures. Parts of the city are now militarized.
Patience is running thin in Venezuela’s second-largest city. As the full extent of Maduro’s power-rationing measures sinks in, expect angry maracuchos to make their voices heard.
Just don’t blame it on the heat.