Photo: Mario Pérez

It was shut down for good.

It happened after it endured two (unscheduled) daily blackouts for weeks and its machine heart couldn’t take it. This is about a Regina fridge, which has been in my house for nearly ten years. My mom, aware of the monster of hyperinflation, didn’t hesitate: “We must fix it anyway we can. We must do it soon.”

While we got in touch with a trusted technician, we set up a strategy to survive until the fridge got repaired: We looked for cooling boxes (like those we used when drinking a few beers didn’t represent five months worth of salary), and with enough ice we kept the perishable foods safe. Repairing the fridge would cost 42 minimum wages (a million bolivars back then). If we didn’t pay upfront, the price would increase.

While we got in touch with a trusted technician, we set up a strategy to survive until the fridge got repaired.

“You have to run and disconnect all electricals every time there’s an outage so this doesn’t happen again,” the technician told us, explaining that the main problem is that we don’t have a power protector. The one we had, broke down months ago and we never bought another one because the blackout tragedy was apparently over… until now. The threat of losing the little we have because of the damn blackouts is always there.

One day after this, I attended a press conference held by Lisandro Cabello, Zulia State’s government secretary, who claimed he’d demanded Electric Energy Vice-minister Carlos Borges to create a Load Administration Plan so people can prevent their appliances from breaking down. That’s from the guy who, when this debacle started, claimed it was impossible to establish a schedule for power cuts.

Go to hell, Lisandro.

On July 2, his demand was heard: The state’s electric company announced a Load Administration Plan, which will be established in 4-hour blocks during mornings and nights, from Monday to Sunday. Nonetheless, it’s failed in these first days and various users have reported that power cuts remain as chaotic before.

Lisandro is covering the governor’s role for the absentee Omar Prieto, who’s on medical leave. The most radical among us think Prieto’s simply hiding until power cuts are resolved, but the fact is that Cabello has carried the burden to the point that, according to him, he constantly gets death threats on social media.

Zulia State’s government secretary, who claimed he’d demanded Electric Energy Vice-minister Carlos Borges to create a Load Administration Plan.

His work hasn’t been that complicated, because it’s root on denying the crisis, parroting that Prieto is “committed” to resolving the situation and giving absurd excuses (such as “Zulia’s very close to the Sun“ and “if the weather improves, this will immediately improve”).

But his favorite accusations mostly deal with alleged sabotage against Corpoelec, carried out by “the evil ones,” as he calls some opposition activists that he claims spend their days attacking power stations guarded by the militia.

About this last part, and in view of the constant questions about why the authorities in charge can’t prevent this “sabotage”, he said that the fire of Caujarito plant was carried out by an “armed group” engaged in a shootout with the guards. However, nobody was wounded or arrested, and the neighbors didn’t hear any gunfire. They only saw the flames.

He also said that protests were forbidden throughout the state, condemning the calls for protest made by Frente Amplio Zulia, led by Juan Pablo Guanipa, who called on people to take the streets every Friday until blackouts are resolved.

It’s not the first time Cabello attacks Guanipa, and it’s not just Cabello who seems to be fixated with him, but the entire current administration of Zulia’s Governor’s Office.

In May, Cabello denounced Guanipa to the Prosecutor’s Office because “he’s been inciting and provoking hate for a couple of years (…), causing the death of human beings who were persecuted, stoned, beaten and some of them set on fire after they were called chavistas.”

But Prieto reappeared on Monday, July 9, in a press conference. A bit thinner but in good condition and, of course, he didn’t waste time to boast his cynicism: nurses aren’t protesting in Zulia (even though it’s been reported almost daily in the press), there’s no malaria in Machiques de Perijá (although independent sources estimate 650 new cases per week) and… the heat wave is responsible for the blackouts.

Electric Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez visited the state to announce that citizens must prepare “for what’s coming.”

Even more humiliating, on Wednesday, July 11, Electric Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez visited the state to announce that citizens must prepare “for what’s coming,” and that power cuts would go from four to eight hours daily, or “as many as necessary.”

“Necessary?” Necessary for what? For Zulians to finally kill themselves?

The announcement caused an immediate reaction: What used to be a series of isolated protests in several areas finally consolidated this July 12, collapsing the entire city because, among other things, the blackouts affected gas stations; bus drivers can’t refuel their vehicles, so there’s no public transport at all.

“I’m not going downtown, even if they give me a fortune,” a man told after standing in line at the bus stop for over two hours. “There are barricades everywhere. People got mad.” Even Miguel Ángel Pérez Pirela, host of the show Cayendo y Corriendo, criticized the constant and lengthy power cuts Corpoelec has been carrying out in Zulia in recent days: “Be careful with the Zulian people, they’re tired, very tired.”

And no wonder: The crisis has gotten so bad that social media users reported last April that in Maracaibo’s Central Hospital, which had no electricity for more than two days, surgeries had to be made with cell phone flashlights.

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