Photo: Panorama

Maracaibo used to be the coldest city in the country, even with temperatures above 35° C. The reason? Everywhere you went, the air conditioners were at full force. That equipment’s not a luxury, but an imperative necessity.

Now, with blackouts that can last up to 14 hours, Maracaibo is hell on Earth.

Living without power goes against human development. The western areas of the city are the most affected, with power cuts that started at four hours a day, then eight, then nine and now 14.

With blackouts that can last up to 14 hours, Maracaibo is hell on Earth.

Journalist Mariella Navas says she can’t rest, spending the day caring for home appliances, power regulators and food, and since work depends on internet connection, her whole life now hangs on the electrical cord. There are no points of sale and electronic transfers are out of the question, so she can’t pay public services either. She can’t even read the news. She’s isolated without electricity.

Ravaged on four sides (July 13 to July 16)

On Friday, July 13, the protector for her fridge caught fire, but the flames didn’t touch the cables. The appliance was saved because she immediately switched the breaker.

Her neighbor wasn’t so lucky. She lost several appliances last month, including the fridge and microwave. Now her life is upside down, because if she can’t buy a candle in Maracaibo, which costs about Bs. 1,000,000, she’s far from fixing her equipments.

Mariella has to walk block after block under the crushing sun to work. She can’t get a bottle of cold water because if stores don’t have their own power plant, they only sell stuff at natural temperature.

On Monday, July 16, she got home in the afternoon, with no time to charge her cellphone. The power was cut at 7:00 p.m. “I waited for it to return at 11:00 p.m. We’re having dinner then, always something simple. I’m always sleep-deprived. I’m 31 and I feel like 50.”

They get water every two days, four days a week.

The same goes for the rest of the week in the Raúl Leoni neighborhood, Francisco Eugenio Betancourt parish. There’s nothing to do until the light bulbs turn back on.

“I had to melt a big candle my mom gave me for Christmas, to get some light at night. We can’t buy or prepare food. Water’s already failing, because three out of the four pumps that supply us from the Hidrolago system are already busted from the blackouts.”

Now, they get water every two days, four days a week. When she gets home at night, her neighbors are sleeping in the condo’s hallways. Women, the elderly and children bundle together in mattresses and improvise fans to keep everyone cool.

“This isn’t new, but it’s gotten worse in the last eight months. Two months ago, a neighbor died. He was very ill and he needed an oxygen machine. There was an eight-hour blackout and he died.”

Navas said that, in her area, there’s people who require dialysis treatment and they’re taken to other communities where there’s electricity so they can get their treatment.

Her mom’s not so lucky. She lives in the Jesús Enrique Lozada sector, outside Maracaibo, spending two or three days straight without power. Her house is surrounded by trees that hold off the heat, but it’s been a while since she drank a glass of cold water. She only eats eggs, mortadella and beans, the only food she can afford to keep without energy.

She suffers from hypertension and the heat can sometimes reach 40 °C.

Punishments vary (July 16 to July 19)

Not even hospitals are safe from the debacle.

From July 16 through 19, power cuts varied between four and five hours (they’d increase to eight hours). “Corpoelec Maracaibo does this in turns. One week is low frequency, the other, the punishment’s worse.”

Everyone in Maracaibo suffers the blackouts, and not even hospitals are safe from the debacle. Gas stations suffer two blackouts a day, ruining pumps that are militarized since 2011, allegedly to prevent fuel trafficking.

Now, those who own a car and want fuel have to spend five hours in line, or pay smugglers a million bolivars for 40 litres.

As if this weren’t enough suffering, Mariella had to buy cash a few days ago. She hadn’t seen her mom in two months, so she paid three million bolivars by transfer for one million in cash. It was Bs. 80,000 to her family’s place.

Utter shamelessness

Electric Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez, who visited Zulia in the first half of July to deal with the electricity problem, claims that recurring blackouts in Maracaibo are caused by a failure of a transmission line.

The worst is, he doesn’t know exactly how many hours the rationing will take. “It could be four, six or eight hours,” a statement that angered Maracaibo citizens.

Mariella isn’t ready for being without food, water, transport and now energy. The only safe bet is that this won’t end until the government changes.

For now, she sighs, getting ready for her weekly punishment.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. ““Hell on Earth” is how Maracaibo residents describe the city undergoing a terrible electricity crisis, unthinkable in any other modern nation. And you know what the government will do about it: absolutely nothing.”

    And you know what the people will do about the government doing absolutely nothing? Nothing.

  2. “Electric Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez, who visited Zulia in the first half of July to deal with the electricity problem, claims that recurring blackouts in Maracaibo are caused by a failure of a transmission line.”

    A. Fraud. If an entire city or state is affected by ongoing blackouts, the problem isn’t “a transmission line”. The problem is an infrastructure in shambles, because even a MORON can replace a transmission line. Anyone who has to make make excuses for failure (politicians) KNOWS how to make this lie… “the problem is simple… a transmission line… nothing to worry about… everything is fine…. trust us… its under control…”

    B. Fraud. The PSUV hierarchy says that iguanas and the sun being too close to Zulia are more believable.

  3. Wow considering how hot Maracaibo is living without electricity must be a nightmare, i am surprise an angry mob isnt lynching and burning every residential place where chavistas and enchufados be at, goes to show how domesticated and controlled chavistas and cubans got the population

  4. We’re without power here for a couple of hours a day almost daily now. No preset time either. This morning at 11AM, off she went.

    In an effort to protect appliances, I flip all the breakers and then just wait until I see the light on the porch of the neighbor’s house come on and stay on a few minutes before turning our power back on. When there’s no power, movinet service goes dark as well though movilstar usually keeps running.

    I’ve taken to preparing a whiskey and coconut water adult beverage and sitting outside and watching the chickens and my garden grow when the power’s down so all is not lost.

    • MRubio…that’s called making lemonade when life deals you lemons! The chickens probably enjoy the company. I hope your appliances don’t get damaged !

  5. I know the pain. Real pain. I “survived” Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Apartment on the 6th floor. No Electricity = No Elevator (wife has bad knees), I and the kids were the mules bringing up the supplies.
    No Water – without electricity no pump to pump the water up 6 floors. Of course no A/C., no dishwasher, washing machine, dryer. No TV, Internet, no fans, no refrigerator, no morning coffee.
    Most business are closed, the street lights at night are off, the traffic lights are off and the traffic is a free for all.
    And it was hot and humid. Raining, mosquitos ( I have the perfect temperature of blood or scent for those nasty guys. For some reason they swirl and twirl around my wife and kids, take a pass, and make a bee line towards me. damn boricua blood – are they immune?)

    It is crazy how our lives revolve around the stuff.

    True paradise lost
    But we see the light, we are recovering.

  6. “pay smugglers a million bolivars for 40 litres”.

    Amazing sentence attempting to explain the situation in venezuela.

    “Pay a smuggler 25¢ for 11 gallons of Gas”

    OUTRAGEOUS !!

    • I was thinking the same thing. They have no electricity and scarce food. But the true horror is having to pay 25 cents for a tank of gas….

    • It’s not so funny to pay 25c for 11 gallons of gas when your car goes less than two miles per liter and your whole monthly income barely, FUCKING BARELY REACHES 1 MOTHERFUCKING DOLLAR.

      So yeah, fucking work a whole damn week to pay the gas to go to your work.

      • You better stock up for what’s coming next week. The government is implicitly saying that gasoline will follow Colombia and Brazil rates. I hope they stick to it, and I’m very sorry for you. Really sorry. There is no way out. And I hope the USD parallel market ROE becomes the BCV ROE, no more Cadivi or exceptions. But this government lacks the courage even if they own the power, the military’s, etc.

        FYI:
        Colombia: 2460 COP/LT
        Brazil: 3600 BRL/LT
        Venezuela: 6 VEF/LT

        These prices are taken from gas stations, the average sedan tank is around 60 liters, in USD:

        One tank in,
        Colombia: USD 50
        Brazil: USD 57
        Venezuela: USD 0.0001

        YOU CAN FILL UP THE TANK OF 10000 CARS WITH ONE USD NOTE – 50000 CARS WITH THE EQUIVALENT AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU SPEND IN COLOMBIA OR BRAZIL. FIFTY THOUSAND CARS!!!

  7. Devastating situation. Repairing the damage done to Venezuela, even if by miracle a new government was sworn in tomorrow, will take generations. The country has lost half of its GDP. The State is in shambles. The infraestructure has collapsed. Healthcare. Education. Massive investments will be needed to get everything working again but the State is completely bankrupt from all the Chavista looting, and overspending with a fiscal deficit to the tune of 20% of GDP… INSANE. Chavismo is more destructive than a dozen Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    • Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’ll take years, yadda, yadda, yadda.

      WE. DON’T. CARE. And that’s NO EXCUSE to leave chabiztas in power.

      I fucking prefer to work the next 50 fucking years of my life to rebuild the damn country, but FUCK I’ll be satisfied to see IT’LL IMPROVE AND GET BETTER BECAUSE CHA-BASURAS ARE ROTTING IN A CELL.

  8. Oh, boy, chabizmo is doing a damn good work at hiding their fault on this, on how they’re torturing the whole Zulia state to fill their pockets (Basically, chabizmo 101):

    http://www.radiomundial.com.ve/article/gobernador-omar-prieto-zulia-contar%C3%A1-con-su-granja-de-miner%C3%ADa-audio

    “Zulia state will have a mining farm, announced the State Governor Omar Prieto, promoting the Petro in the region, detailing that the regional executive has been certified by the Bolivarian Government to start mining in Zulia”

  9. Sorry. But this doesn’t sound like hell on earth.

    40C is not bad. Millions of people live in 40C heat all the time. You don’t need AC for it. Just stay in the shade. Hell, I don’t have AC in my house here in California. And it regularly around 40C here lately.

    It wasn’t until recently that everyone had cold water to drink. What did your grandparents drink? Just plain room temperature water. It won’t kill you.

    For light, what happened to kerosene lamps for a backup?

    Food preservation is helped by refrigerators. But humans lived a long time before electrical fridges. I grew up in the 70’s and we didn’t have a fridge. We used powered milk and room temp water. We used canned goods. We salted meat to preserve it. There are ways to deal with it. You just need to go old school and figure out what your ancestors did.

    • “40C is not bad.”

      You don’t know what is to endure that shit then.

      “Just stay in the shade. ”

      It’s 40ºC in the shade.

      “For light, what happened to kerosene lamps for a backup?”

      There’s no kerosene, also you don’t use electricity just for light now, this isn’t the 80s anymore.

      “We used powered milk and room temp water. ”

      One kilo of powdered milk can reach up to 15-20 million bolivars, impossible to buy when the average income is less than 6 millions.

      “We used canned goods.”

      One can of tuna can reach up to 12 million bolivars, the only affordable non-refrigerated proteines are sardines (1.500.000 bs a can) or eggs (4.000.000 bs for 15 eggs)

      “Just plain room temperature water. It won’t kill you.”

      But it doesn’t quench thirst nor refresh your body.

      “We salted meat to preserve it. ”

      Salt is either nonexistant or above two weeks of salary to buy.

      Also, heat and garbage accumulations in the populated areas tend to become breeding grounds for roaches, rats and all kinds of diseased vermin, it isn’t exactly nice to find your salted meat being chewed by roaches.

      • Ulamog: please follow the advice of Ron Larson. He’s right on the money. In Europe no one uses AC and they survive or better, they live!

    • Venezuela has been invaded, but there’s still a lot of people that refuse to believe it because that would take them out of their mental comfort zone.

  10. Ulamog, Ron lives in socialist California and wishes Venezuelans would just quit whining about the conditions that socialism has brought to the country. It’s bad PR for them and their message.

    • No. Not at all.

      I’m just pointing out that that their hand-wringing over the lack of AC and cold water is not a critical problem. They can be tolerated. They can be survived and overcome.

      The problem is that they are moaning about the symptoms of problems. No where in the article did I get the sense that they are trying to solve the core problem that is driving this condition.

      What triggered my “rant” was when I read the statement “It is 40C and I have hypertension. So I need cold water”, I thought “So what? You and millions of others.”

      I grew up without electricity. And I’m American. I’ve never had AC. Still don’t. I’ve also lived through summers in Tucson Arizona without air conditioning. It can be brutal, but you learn ways to cope with it. I’ve lived in hot parts of Australia without AC. I’ve lived in southern Florida, Haiti, Mexico, and all over the Caribbean with out AC and often without electricity.

      When ever I am faced with a tough situation, I think to my self “How did my forefathers deal with this?”. When they came over from Norway in the late 1800’s they didn’t have a damn thing. But they built a town, a life, from the Great Prairies of western Minnesota. I’ve been to the family farm in Norway where they came from, and they had nothing there at all. Just cold mountains, and some livestock to fatten and sell in Sweden.

      When other branch of my family moved to San Diego from Santa Fe in the late 1700’s there was nothing here. Just desert. Nothing but the clothes on their backs. But they figured it out, they didn’t complain, and they made it better. When my grandfather in the Philippines grew up, he had nothing. Grew up on the streets. Yet he found the way to join the US Navy and end up in San Diego and made a life. Get out there. Learn to hunt. Learn to fish. Read books. Learn from the old people how things used to happen. They have great wisdom. That is what I’ve always done.

      They can survive this. Use your brains. Learn from the past. Then focus your energy on what needs to change, which is to get ride of the corruption and “Chavezism” that has destroyed your country. Accept that you will have rebuilt it all over again, just like your ancestors did.

      I’m not bleeding heart liberal, contrary to your insults towards me. If I was, I would’t be here reading this blog. I’d be over at TeleSur or some crap like that.

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