The dams of Bolívar state are legendary; true architectural wonders. At one point, nuestro Guri was one of the biggest hydroelectric plants in the world, and an international standard on how to do dams right, damnit. Then socialism came, and like a monkey trying to fix a car with a hammer, they just messed everything up.

Look at this picture:

Recently, the drought brought in by El Niño sent us spiraling into the biggest energy crisis in our history. And now all that rain is coming back with a vengeance to make up for lost time. All it would take to manage this rainfall is a bit of planning: all they had to do was open up the sluice gates to drain out the excess water before the start of rainy season.

They didn’t.

They waited until July 6th, when Guri’s levels were already dangerously high, to put up this sorry show.

Opening up all the gates at the same time was risky and unnecessary. Notorious lack of maintenance meant that some of the gates weren’t ready to be used, and they might have suffered some damage because of the Maduro’s circus act: If you think they were kept open after than ridiculous charade touted as a “popular victory,” then you are way behind in your communist thinking. They closed them again. Nobody knows why.

On top of that, the spillways were all opened as well. Ideally, you never have to use them, they’re backup mechanisms for relieving excess water, but all that water gets wasted, since it doesn’t pass through the turbines and doesn’t generate any energy. But, they wanted waterworks for the cameras, so, there you go. The spillways were also closed as soon as this charade was over.

Fast forward to recent weeks. Reservoir water levels were nearing the point of flooding. So they opened the gates and spillways again (at least all of the ones that were working; communism is rough on structures built by previous governments).

Some kilometers downstream on the Caroní river from the embattled Guri complex lies Tocoma. A half-finished dam started by Hugo Chávez’s government in 2002 that was supposed to be finished by 2014. It wasn’t. The dam is one of the Odebrecht-related construction projects, mired in sordid corruption scandals that have yet to be investigated by the National Prosecutor who just got ousted from her post by an illegitimate National Constituent Aseembly. Tocoma is receiving more water pressure than it is prepared to at this moment.

And then further further down from Tocoma, you have my hometown, Ciudad Guayana. We have a dam too, Macagua, it’s by a highway in the middle of the city. When the gates are opened, it is a truly beautiful sight. Chavista media likes to publicize this so we can pretend that nothing bad is happening.

People’s houses are flooding. Correo del Caroní reports more than 2000 families affected by the rising water level so far. Some of them have been offered CLAP bags, and houses that haven’t been constructed yet. Pableysa Ostos recently visited one of those barrios, covered at waist height of water.

These are families that have had to deal with all the other humanitarian crises of Ciudad Guayana: food and medicine shortages, inflation, dengue fever, malaria outbreaks… on top of all of that, their houses flood, and it all could have been easily avoided. Socialism managed to ruin an ambitious project, to say nothing of the countless lives lost, out of sheer incompetence. 

People say Maduro is lazy. I have to disagree: he works tirelessly day in and day out to find new and innovative ways to kill us all.

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  1. Let me guess, the chavistas authorities have blamed everything and everybody from Almagro to Capriles, except saying that they screwed it up again, right?

  2. It was a CIA plot to seed the clouds to produce excess rain. The drought was a CIA plot…..The CIA kidnapped the engineers responsible for Guri….

    My understanding was that like PDVSA before 2002, Guri/hydroelectric was competently staffed. Chavez received staff recommendations to expand hydroelectric capacity, but didn’t follow advice. Hence the ensuing shortages. (It wasn’t as if there had never been droughts before.. CC and others covered this back in 2010.)
    Has the Guri/hydroelectric staff been gutted, like PDVSA? Perhaps those engineers who recommended expanding capacity got fired.

  3. Great article Carlos. Would love to see more investigative journalism on all these bullshit projects that look great at a press conference or breaking the ground ceremony, but nothing ever gets done or it just gets run into the ground.

    Still waiting for desalinization plants on Margarita. Wonder where all that money went???

  4. I’m never one to defend the chavistas, but it must be said that the opening of the gates and the spillways has nothing to do with the flooding of Ciudad Guayana: They must be opened anyway to prevent water from overflowing, disregarding who is in control of the dams.

    This flooding is a natural phenomenon that repeats itself from time to time. Last time was in 1976, when the Caroní overflowed and covered Av. Guayana. It doesn’t happen often, but it is nothing new.

    By the way, the Orinoco is ALSO overflowing, reaching record levels in Caicara del Orinoco. And there is no dam on the Orinoco to blame.

    In summary: The chavistas are the source of many problems in Venezuela, but they have nothing to do with this.

    • I get why you’d think that, but sadly, the management of the dams have a lot to do with the flooding. They could have drained some of the water before the rains started.

      Even José Aguilar, who’s THE expert on hydroelectric plants of Guayana, says “this is exclusive fault of and responsibility of the dictatorship”

      Sure, the floodings have always existed in Ciudad Guayana, there are housing developments that are simply too close to the river and are always at risk, but as José Aguilar puts it, the mismanagement of the gates is putting a “turbo” on the floodings this time around.

      • Uhmmm… No.

        Disregarding who Jose Aguilar claims to be, this flood doesn’t correspond to the behavior of a rushed up dam gate opening.

        A sudden, late opening of dam gates generates a peak, “flash” flood that travels downstream, suddenly swelling the river levels and then retreating to the previous ones.

        This flood has been altogether different: Plenty of photographic evidence going around shows how the river levels have been slowly but consistently raising since a few weeks, without receding. That’s trademark of a natural flooding due to over-average rains in the river basin.


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