Photo: KienYKe

It’s 11:30 p.m. in El Vigía, the second biggest city in Mérida State, where I’m staying as part of my two-month long Community Medicine internship. The temperature outside is 30°C, but inside my cousin’s house (that just received 12 hours of scorching, tropical sun) it feels way over that. There was a blackout three hours ago, the third that day, and no one really knew when power would finally return. I can feel every drop of sweat forming around my body as I lay in bed staring at the roof, rethinking my life choices. The heat rises to much more than my mountain-raised body can sustain, and I have to lay on the granite floor, the only cold surface around.

This is the latest chapter of a nine year-old (so far) electric crisis. Right now, western states are the most affected. After two weeks of random blackouts lasting from two to 16 hours (and several violent riots), an 8-hour long daily rationing program was established in Táchira, Mérida, Trujillo, Barinas, Portuguesa and Apure. The blackouts now show a more regular pattern, but still happen at random hours, the consequence of the 82% deficit in the region’s power generation capacity caused by years of underinvestment and corruption — not the weather.

The situation in El Vigía, 70 km west to my hometown of Mérida, is even more dramatic. Being just a few minutes away from Lake Maracaibo’s Southern Shore and just 8° north of the equator, daytime temperature is usually near 40°C, making air conditioner a top-level priority for survival.

During daytime, blackouts mean hell. It’s not only that houses get too hot to stay inside, leaving is also a bad idea. If you don’t own a car, you’ll have to walk (public transport is as broken here as everywhere else), and if you sort that out, going to a mall or doing errands is impossible; in a country where cash is harder to find than a functional opposition, a power cut means a complete halt to most economic activity. There’s simply no way to physically pay for anything, even if you can afford it, forcing many small and medium-scale stores to close their doors as soon as power is gone.

Gasoline power generators can make things easier, but you need gas. Not a problem in the country with the cheapest fuel ever, right?

In Táchira, three patients died last week due to respiratory failure after the equipments needed to reanimate them didn’t start.

Well, El Vigía has been under a terribly impractical and ultimately useless fuel rationing system since 2011, a measure also applied to the whole Táchira State. This rationing, meant to prevent gasoline smuggling to the Colombian border (two hours away by car), limits the number of liters a car can receive every week, and completely prohibits filling plastic bottles or cans. Refueling your power plant is a complex third world quest in which you must make a kilometric line for hours in your car, get the few liters a National Guard authorises the seller to dispatch you, go back home, take a hose and siphon those few liters into the generator. With the current electric crisis, this must be repeated daily, and most generators are too small to power the several air conditioners needed to make houses bearable again (a small desk fan will have to do). Mind you, by common accord all the noisy generators must be turned off so neighbours can sleep after 11:00 p.m.

This sucks, of course, but it’s nothing compared to what patients in public hospitals must face when lights go out. I experienced it myself in the small ambulatory clinic I’m doing my internship at. Located in La Palmita, the clinic was built in 1996, when a power crisis sounded like a joke and generators were not deemed necessary. So when power goes out, everything turns off, including the nebulizer I was using to treat the asthma crisis of a seven year-old kid I attended last week.

In bigger hospitals, where patients’ lives actually depend on machines, things are dire. In Táchira, three patients died last week: a four-month-old baby and a 76-year-old man in Rubio, and a 25-year-old woman in El Piñal, all of them due to respiratory failure after the equipments needed to reanimate them didn’t start. They join the six mechanically-ventilated newborn babies who died last month in San Félix, Bolívar State, after their hospital’s power generator failed to start during a blackout.

That night in El Vigía, after two hours laying on the floor like an oversized iguana, I was forced back to bed by a terrible back ache and sleep only came after 4:30 a.m., when some CORPOELEC torturer decided we had suffered enough for the night. I was lucky: I survived the night with nothing but bags under my eyes and a horrible pain on my neck.

Way cheaper than the price some had to pay.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. It’s all part of the plan, the extermination of the venezuelan population to achieve the control of the drug-mining colony of the cubans.

  2. Lamento su situación y me solidarizo con las víctimas pero tras dos o tres años leyendo sobre Venezuela siempre lo mismo con distintos personajes, agoté mi cupo de artículos sobre la miseria, los actos violentos, las medidas económicas disparatadas… y me suena todo a lo mismo a pesar de lo injusto que sé que esto es en realidad porque las experiencias tan dolorosas como las que usted menciona aquí no son por ello menos sentidas y din duda les afectan profundamente.

    En Venezuela todo el mundo habla y habla pero la realidad es que nadie hace nada. Muy mal futuro tiene su país si, hoy por hoy, la única esperanza es que el régimen implosione. Maduro se puede terminar marchando pero quedará una oposición sin principios, una población en la miseria que nunca supo organizarse expuesta al siguiente vendedor de sueños, un país destrozado… Previsiblemente dentro de no mucho volverán a tener luz, efectivo y antibióticos en las farmacias pero difícilmente un país a la altura del enorme potencial que tiene.

      • Bueno, en realidad no quería decir eso, más bien lo que ocurre es que los esfuerzos que se están haciendo en Venezuela se anulan mutuamente y al final la situación es la que no se mueve a ninguna parte. El español por cierto es en buena medida también muy hablador pero aquí las circunstancias son ahora muy distintas.

      • Es increible que hacen NADA para ayudar su situacion.

        Para hablar y manifestar…porque no.

        Nada esta pasando.

        And there are Latinos who still believe a Seal Team shouldn’t put fucking bullets through Maduro’s and et al’s head to end the dying of Venezuelan children?

        It’s a fucking disgusting attitude.

        Enjoy your Gringo hatred, and watch your children die.

  3. “During daytime, blackouts mean hell. It’s not only that houses get too hot to stay inside, leaving is also a bad idea. If you don’t own a car, you’ll have to walk (public transport is as broken here as everywhere else), and if you sort that out, going to a mall or doing errands is impossible.”

    Look at the bright side: perhaps that -and more- is what it takes for the remaining populace to wake up and finally get really, really pissed-off. That, and perhaps a little push from our buddy Pompeo to stop the oil cash, after convincing India to stop theirs.

    That would add to my Perfect Storm scenario: Mega-Election Fraud to piss people off. Plus severe cash international strangulation leaving only drug-trade cash to bribe the Millions of pueblo-people Enchufados, plus thousands of filthy military. Plus an even worse Economic crisis by June, even more inflation, scarcity, hunger, crime, lack of medicines, etc. PLUS insufferable summer heat, described above!

    If that’s not enough to ignite massive revolts so the shit really hits the fan, they’d better start praying, or better yet, begging to the infamous “gringos imperialistas and Seal team 6 to save their overheated asses one desperate moonless night, instead praying or performing indigenous rain dances for electricity.

    • I’ve said it innumerable times on this forum and others. Don’t count on the US military to do anything. Venezuela has NOTHING that the US wants. We have enough shitty, thick oil of our own in North Dakota. Last I heard, we were an net exporter.

      The US voter is tired of sending our lads off to far off, exotic places to save the bacon of ingrates.

      I look forward to seeing Venezuelans rise up. I sincerely hope they do. If I lived there (and had no options), I certainly would start by sending some colectivos off to meet Karl Marx.

      • You are correct that the US military will not do anything.

        Most of the North Dakota crude is light, maybe you are think of Canadian Tar Sands?
        Many US refineries cannot handle light oil and were built to handle heavy thick oil like Venezuelan crude.

        • I stand corrected. I just talked to a buddy from up around the Bakken fields (Williston) and he said the same. My mistake. Though I do believe we have plenty of heavy sour of our own?

          The local refinery (Flint Hills/Pine Bend, Rosemount, Minnesota) refines mostly light crude for transportation fuels that it gets from ND and Canada.

      • It’s not that the USA “wants” anything from Narco-Kleptozuela. (Although they still like the heavy oil because Citgo and other refineries are set-up for that, to mix, etc – I’m no oil expert but if they’re buying it Cash, to the tune of $35 Million per freaking day (do the math per year), it’s because they must WANT that oil, it sure ain’t charity, huh?).

        Rather, it’s what they DON’T want from the Genocidal Tyranny. And there’s a lot of that: They don’t want a permanent immigration crisis, they don’t want a destabilized region, the entire Americas are affected by Cubazuela’s disasters, including the humanitarian crisis. They don’t want populism and Castro Chavismo to spread like a virus en the entire continent, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador are enough shitholes to deal with. They don’t want Colombia and Mexico, even Brasil to get infected by the same Chavistoide diseases.

        And they certainly don’t want the Massive Drug Trade, increasingly handled through Kleptozuela. I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t guarantee a little visit from the US Marines, but they sure are worried about such a big country smack in the middle of the continent, dealing drugs left and right. If all economic sanctions including severe oil cash sanctions worldwide fail to strangle the Narco-Regime, it’s the DEA and the CIA that might get involved. They have already declared Kleptozuela a “Danger” to the USA, twice since Obama. The USA doesn’t joke around about Drugs, humanitarian and immigration crisis in their own backyard. Especially not the current administration with the Donald, Pompeo and hard-core right wing republicans. Thus, you just can’t rule out a Cara’e’Piña brief intervention, Panama style (no invasion here). The entire International community except Russia, Cina and a few clowns are all behind the USA, in unprecedented fashion now, and will be more so after the ‘elections’ Mega-Fraud. We shall see..

        • It isn’t about drugs/humanitarian/immigration crises, although all will be used as justification for public consumption/support. It’s about Regional spread of Castro-Communism in an impoverished Continent in the U.S.’s backyard. It’s either the Ven. military (preferably), or the U.S. military, deciding (no, a surgical strike will not be enough–the cancer is too widespread internally in Venezuela)….

          • Right, although the immigration crisis does cause problems and cost money to the USA. It’s the spread of Communism and the Drug problem. A surgical strike would work if well-planned, in coordination with Borges and some MUD and a few malcontent military. But the mess will continue for at least 50 years anyway, the place was destroyed and the people left suck for the most part.

  4. I’ve said it innumerable times on this forum and others. Don’t count on the US military to do anything. Venezuela has NOTHING that the US wants. We have enough shitty, thick oil of our own in North Dakota. Last I heard, we were an net exporter.

    The US voter is tired of sending our lads off to far off, exotic places to save the bacon of ingrates.

    I look forward to seeing Venezuelans rise up. I sincerely hope they do. If I lived there (and had no options), I certainly would start by sending some colectivos off to meet Karl Marx.

    • Don’t agree.

      All U.S. presidents need a military victory under their belt, and although the media hasn’t sufficiently put VZ on the front page, that’s their fault. Not Trump’s.

      It only takes a few days to convince the American public that it’s the right thing to do, but more important, it’s irrelevant. The fucking liberal anti-Trump shitheads in this country would protest him going into Germany in 1939 to save Jews. Trump ignores them, which is why I adore him.

      He plays to results. Not public opinion.

      Finally, militarily, we would hardly be sending our military “far off.” For Christ’s sake, it’s a joke. We could run missions out of Miami. Two hours.

      The U.S. would have total military control of the country in 2 days tops. Faster than Panama.

      And Maduro knows it.

      • Sorry to disappoint, but there is no way Trump is sending in troops without the AN and exciled TSJ court providing legal coverage.

        There are so many tools yet to use, it just is not in the cards.

        Regarding the article, I don’t see the situation as any worse than 2 years ago, yet!

        Just waiting for the next rounds of marches to see if people are as pissed off as what commentators are hoping for.

  5. No chance of an American invasion of any significant size. Too expensive – the last one cost trillions. It would also put the US on the hook for an immediate crisis. Venezuela got themselves there, and for the moment, they will have to change course themselves. Sanctions will eventually blow Maduro out of Miraflores but that’s just the start of it. Production, the energy sector, hospitals, justice, security, education, most institutions to say nothing of the economy – all have been run into the shitter. And how about reorienting a massive swath of the population who still think the government owns them something by birthright. Us ranting on this thread represent a mere sliver of those associated with the country who have any semblance of an objective take on the situation. There’s always a way given great leadership but the place feels so far gone that the educated class notwithstanding, turning things around would be epic. It’s conceivable that those sent to help would be considered “meddlers,” the enemy – the madness has gone that far. Problem is Venezuela is in paralysis unable to fix itself. The situation keeps spilling over to surrounding countries in escalating and dire ways. And Maduro owes billions upon billions to foreign bond holders. Somebody, somewhere is going to force a move because the situation is not sustainable. The idea that a Chamo/fake military combo could manage a country in 2018 is absurd. But who can possibly predict a way out at this point, and what it might look like.

    • Meddlers I can see. Build up of resources by allied nation’s to address humanitarian issues, very likely.

      US likes to protect aid workers with gunships. Folks are tired of UN rapists in blue helmets. So expect a minor contingent to step in on the Columbian side if the border. But not to make life easier for Venny.

      Again, as was pointed out, Venny has nothing worth US troops to die for.

  6. Kids, the only way the United States invades Venezuela is if the boys and girls sitting at Langley discover that Madurín con mucho swing is selling oil to the North Koreans. Other than that, any argument to that effect is cursory, ill-informed and wishful thinking.

  7. Thanks JJ Lopez, I have been trying to tell folks on this board that, aside from economic measures, the US is not going to invade Venezuela. To think otherwise is sheer lunacy. The resolution of your problems are wholely in your hands and don’t look elsewhere. And this doesn’t mean you have to resort to a civil war. Mass demonstratoons will prove the public dissatisfaction with the Chavista government and they have not occurred on a persistent basis.When you have truly had enough of the treatment you are receiving just walk outside your homes and demand change. If enough folks join you, change will happen. Until then don’t hold your breath and particulary don’t waste a second of your energy hoping for a US military intervention. I have lived in the US my whole life. While I know next to nothing about Venezuela, I do know my own country and I say this as someone who served in the US Army, have lived in DC most of my working years and am assuredly conservative in my political views.

  8. All it takes is one charismatic battalion commander to exterminate his Cuban watchers and ignite a rebellion that would spread like wildfire through the military establishment. After all, the soldiers’ families are suffering also. It could be a sergeants’ rebellion. “To hell with the officers. We’re taking our country back!”

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