Photo: Corpoelec retrieved

Luis Motta Domínguez warned us on July 11 that tragedy was coming, when he said that the electricity problem was a “crisis” and claimed that Zulian citizens must be ready for “what’s coming,” announcing 6 and 8-hour long power cuts… or “as long as necessary.”

And he didn’t lie. “As long as necessary” translated into four-day blackouts in some areas of Maracaibo. Chaos has devoured the city ever since. However, his discourse as Electric Energy Minister has changed. Perhaps he was scolded by the big shots, who reminded him that his job—just like all of chavista officials—isn’t solving the issues or taking responsibility, but rather deny them, block the reports about them or simply denounce a conspiracy orchestrated by the United States, the Colombian government or the Venezuelan opposition.

The days went by and Zulia’s electric problems grew worse. Meanwhile, Motta Domínguez retook the official script and his absurd, cynical accusations. He claimed in various occasions that the electric system was 100% restored and that blackouts were caused by the “sabotage” created by dissident groups that seek to generate “the conditions” for a foreign intervention.

Zulia’s electric problems grew worse. Meanwhile, Motta Domínguez retook the official script and his absurd, cynical accusations.

On Wednesday, August 8, he said that he had good news for Saturday 11, but early on Friday there were explosions on the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge—an emblematic monument in the region-—which forced its temporary closure and intensified the electric crisis.

Later that same day, he appeared on a helicopter near Maracaibo Lake, regretting the announcement he’d made two days prior, because allegedly “the terrorists” (he didn’t specify who or what he meant) decided to carry out their attack a day before planned, to tarnish “people’s happiness.” “They won’t defeat us,” he said.

The chaos has deepened since, and Maracaibo has turned into an apocalyptic stage: people pulling out mattresses to sleep outside their homes, due to the intense heat in this area of the country; downtown shop owners denounced that approximately Bs.F 15 billion of meat rotted (a little over 3,000 active integral minimum wages, compared to the new 83 minimum wages, according to the insane economic measures proposed by Maduro last Friday) and they were forced to sell it on the cheap side to try and salvage a bit of capital. Armando Chacín, head of the Venezuelan Federation of Stock Farmers, reported that close to 100,000 litres of milk spoiled for lack of refrigeration. Service stations, most of them without electric power plants, have huge lines of vehicles, including bus drivers who lose hours per day trying to fill their gas tanks, collapsing the already crippled public transport.

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Photos: Mario Pérez

But that’s not all: phone communications have also been affected and became practically impossible. A local satirical blog posted that maracuchos were starting to use messaging pigeons to talk among themselves and a friend told me that the girl he’s dating told him that if they remained in the dark without being able to talk over WhatsApp or text messages, the relationship would be at risk; there are also hundreds of citizens standing in line in front of bakeries since very early each morning, waiting for them to open, because power cuts usually take place at 11:00 a.m. so it’s practically impossible to buy bread during the day; meanwhile, my brother’s losing lots of money and clients, since he works as a freelancer over the internet and he’s been hinting that he might leave the country. My mom is shattered by the prospect of not seeing him or her 1-year old granddaughter again.

Despite the heartbreaking and dramatic stories that I could write and describe in more detail in these last couple of paragraphs, governor Omar Prieto, far from offering a solution, has played along into Motta Domínguez’s narrative.

On August 13, he offered a press conference where he said that the “terrorist attack” at the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge sought to oust him and isolate Zulia from the rest of the country, although he chose not to offer more details about the alleged terrorists who were supposedly arrested for the incident.

Governor Omar Prieto, far from offering a solution, has played along into Motta Domínguez’s narrative.

He also claimed that he’d been cheered in a square in the city by people who have seen his “commitment” regarding the crisis and denied that there were any protests in the city, even though dozens of citizens block important roads every day. The cherry on top was when he said that he couldn’t give a date to restore the service because “the terrorists” would attack again. What can we expect from an administration that faces the city’s collapse with cynicism and mocking their own negligence?

I suspect that both Motta Domínguez and Prieto are rolling on the floor laughing while they plan their official statements to the press.

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