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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  1. Only when people openly jeer and throw things at hearing such absurd excuses will these ludicrous speeces stop. The problem, of course, is that the Chavistas have no means, no capitol, and no wherewithall to fix the problem. The only thing left to do is repress the Pueblo, or anyone who balks, and that’s when it could get ugly. Right now it’s miserable, but not dangerously explosive. But everyone has a breaking point, and when that’s reached, all bets are off.

  2. “Right now it’s miserable, but not dangerously explosive…”

    Juan L, How much more would it take to become explosive. In engineering terms this people are resilient, plastic and elastic all at the same time. The ideal material for the revolution.

    But, Venezuela has lost dignity longtime ago. And they all have infinite hope and most particularly, they fear death as if death was something so terrible. Their overall behavior is the same of as an immense herd of sheeps that can be corralled by a pastor dog. No fight opposed.

    So the question remains how much more of this constant beating they will take before they do something?

    Today’s paper (WSJ) is badly trying to explain the situation to their readers. To make sense of it. And reading the three pieces including the editorial I’m still lost.

    • WSJ Editorial: Monetary Chaos in Caracas
      This promises to be quite a week in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro is rolling out his economic recuperation plan, which is supposed to rescue the once-wealthy nation from the economic damage that socialism has delivered. But on the evidence of the plan Mr. Maduro announced Friday, Venezuela could be in for a monetary meltdown.

      The main feature of the Maduro plan is a giant devaluation. The new fixed rate for what he calls the “strong bolivar” is 6,000,000 to the dollar. The preferential price from the central bank had been 4,000,000 to the dollar. If all those zeros make your head spin, fear not. On Tuesday the government will launch a new currency, the “sovereign bolivar.” It will contain five fewer zeros, so it will be pegged at 60 to the dollar.

      As monetary face-lifts go, this looks like a back-alley job. Venezuela is in the throes of a hyperinflation that economist Steve Hanke says has surged to another all-time high of 61,463% on an annual basis. The International Monetary Fund says inflation could reach 1,000,000% this year. The new bolivar rate, which is closer to the black market rate, is an attempt to stop the price spiral and restore confidence in the currency.

      The problem is that the same people will be running the central bank, and they’ll still answer to Mr. Maduro, who on Friday also decreed an increase in the minimum wage of 6,000%. For those holding the ID card of Mr. Maduro’s United Socialist Party, the government will pay a bonus equivalent to 600,000 old bolivars. Perhaps the money to pay for the bonus will come from printing more bolivars.

      Mr. Maduro also declared that there will be a nationwide price freeze, date uncertain. Venezuelan businesses have been laboring under price controls for years, but there have been mechanisms for small adjustments. It isn’t clear how strict the new price controls will be, but good luck to businesses trying to pay the new minimum wages when they can’t raise prices.

      Even Mr. Maduro seems to understand that this is a problem, so he has declared that the government will pay the wage increases for small- and medium-size businesses for 90 days. Some of that cash will come from raising the value-added tax in September to 16% from 12%, if there’s much of anything left of the economy beyond the black market.

      Not surprisingly, hyperinflation has led to an acute shortage of cash to perform even basic transactions. Gasoline stations, buses and many informal markets require cash, but small change is difficult to find. Adjustments under the new currency using old bills will mean sharp price increases for everyday business.

      All of this adds up to a full-blown financial panic and the breakdown of economic order. Mr. Maduro has destroyed confidence in the country’s institutions and currency, and his new plan will make it worse. The only way to stop the descent into chaos might be to dollarize the economy. Meantime, be prepared for the worst as the people and capital of a degraded nation flee the wages of socialism.

    • “How much more would it take to become explosive. In engineering terms this people are resilient, plastic and elastic all at the same time. The ideal material for the revolution.”

      Revolution?!? According to anacyclosis this is the time for descent into mob rule, not revolution. As for becoming ‘explosive’, that will require a change of culture — good luck with that.

    • You stole that! From the billboard that used to be outside of Ft. Lauderdale that said, “Will the last English speaking person leaving Miami please bring the American flag with them?”

      Too funny!!!

  3. Solution to Maracaibo’s/soon-to-be-all Venezuela’s communication problems–carrier pigeons –but, good luck with that, as the Govt. calls back snipers from Nicaragua currently shooting down unarmed pesky student protesters to shoot down the pesky Venezuelan flying insurrectionists–new Pueblo solution to their problems?–smoke signals, bringing back a long, lost pre-modern civilization heritage….

    • Not to mention: 1 cubito, 1 chopped onion. 1/2 cup of water, dash of adobo and salt, 1 carrier pigeon. Bring to simmer, cover, watch for one hour. Add water as needed. Serve with casave as bread, potatoes and rice no longer exist.

      • Yummy!!!

        We have casave in some Dallas markets. I will catch two pigeons in my backyard but I believe the pigeons need more time to tenderizing. 2 hours maybe.

        Don’t they have pigeons, cats, and dogs? In Korea, the Philippines they eat them. Along with reptiles, serpents, etc. Normally anything on four legs or anything that flyes or crawl. They also had horrible wars.

      • Jamie Oliver has some recipes. Looks yummy in the picture:

        But, can you get all these ingredients in Venezuela?

        2 red onions , peeled and finely sliced
        olive oil
        1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
        2 sprigs fresh thyme , leaves picked
        4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
        1 ciabatta loaf
        2 sprigs fresh rosemary , leaves picked
        4 pigeon breasts , skin on
        1 whole nutmeg , for grating
        2 bay leaves
        Worcestershire sauce
        English mustard , to serve
        1 large handful watercress , to serve
        cottage cheese , to serve

        • I’ve got rosemary and thyme planted out back but they’re just sprouting. I did plant watercress and it was growing nicely before it just suddenly died. Likely a fungus-amongus.

          So aside from that, if I can find the time to leave the country for a few days to buy everything else on the list, I’ll be in great shape.


  4. And I thought I had iguana problems.

    Alternately, if my woman complains about reduced production from my garden, I can blame it on terrorists.

    • I told the Mrs. that the reason that I didn’t clean out the garage last weekend was due to “sabotage”.

      She didn’t think it was funny. She doesn’t think anything is funny related to Venezuela these days, no matter how innocuous or sarcastic. While she has washed her hands of the place, it makes her sad and angry.

      • El Guapo, when I fail to get household “chores” done in what what my wife considers a timely manner I get called things that I have to look up or translate on Google. Lol. I now know what oso perezoso means. Lol.

  5. Is anyone fooled by these excuses and imaginary accusations ?? after so many years of repeated lies , flagrant lies , that get found out after a short period , is there one sould in maracaibo that gets taken in by these blatant excuses ?? everyone knows that these blackouts are the result of the regimes gross mismanagement with a side order of corruption ……., Is there a Maracucho that doesnt loathe the govt …??

  6. Juan L, How much more would it take to become explosive?

    Good question, Pepe. I’ve always been hesitant to get too specific on this blog becase I still have family in Venezuela and don’t want to make things worse for them. And what I’m hearing about Maricaibo and Trujillo comes by way of Valencia and CCS so I don’t have 1st hand dope on the hot spots, so to speak. But my uneducated guess is that a tipping point is fast approaching where passive can quickly turn aggressive once the pueblo fully realized they have entrusted the public sector to a band of rogue buffoons and thieves who not only violated their trust but have NO SOLUTION to improve the situation whatsoever. No paln. No wherewithall, no clue. The first sign will be open and hostil revolt against alll the horseshit excuses and doubletalk and blaming others that officials keep throwing in people’s faces. Expect to see that change in short order.

    For example, the moment Maduro let fly his new economic plan, there was a regular stampeed for goods. Much of those goods were wrangled by the dying private sector, which will effectively be forced out of business by Maduro’s new decrees per minimun wage increases, taxes, etc. As is, few people are acually starving. There still is SOME stuff, however limited. When do you expect anyone to restock what was just bought up? With what money?

    By bankrupting the private sector, the pueblo is now entirely in the hands of a bankrupt government, half of whose leaders are wanted for drug and criminal charges, the same dumb shits who hung 150 billion dollars worth of debt on the country. Ain’t nobody, that is no one and no power on earth, gonna bail these gafos out till Maduro is gone. My sense of it is the level of misery will reach a breaking point once this new economic “plan” takes effect, and at that point we’ll likely see an explosive situation arise from a previously passive pueblo. The bullshit rhetoric will only make things worse since they have no solution or plan or fallback position. And with the borders being closed on all sides, the pot must boil over.

    The quesion I constantly wonder about is – what are the Chavistas thinking in terms of preparing for an inevitable uprising? No way the gentle simply roll ofer and die, and there’s not enough CLAP bags to feed everyone. WHat’s more, as Thatcher said, socialism is fine so long as somebody else is paying for it. But now there is no “somebody else.”

    A political friend of mind said that Cuba is in a precarious situation. Without remittances from the states, and tourism, and fule etc. from Venezuela, the Castro era is done. He (my friend) suspects that if Venezuela totally tanks – and this new economic “plan” seems certain to do the trick – Castro Cuba is also hosed. Which might explain why the US is watching and waiting.

    So really I have no idea what the Chavistas are up to but with no funds and no fallback position and no sugar daddy they have no way to course correct, and no options to better the situation. They made there bed, and unfortunately, the pueblo has to sleep in it. But not everyone is going to take this one lying down – of that we can be sure.

  7. Commenting on above, in any normal previously-developed country the tipping point would have been reached long ago. What Maracaibo, in particular, has taught, is that a boiled frog is perhaps too-limp to jump/fight. Caracas/its slums are still being relatively p rotected, although the coming economic hecatombe will be severe, especially as food scarcity at any price emerges. The key, as usual, are the Ven. armed forces, 2m generals/perhaps 2m lower echelons still OK, the rest of 120m military/their extended families not. International maneuvering/prep also key: Mattis visits around major S.A. countries; Colombia in NATO; Colombia stationing U.S. Navy Humanitarian Relief ship for Ven. refugees; rumored Chinese humanitarian relief ship requested by NM for Venezuela; NM on U.S. narcos list, etc. If not from within, (and remember, it isn’t as many complain in/out of Venezuela that NM is the problem–it’s a rogue Cuban-Communist expansionist ideology espoused by a coterie of top corrupt politicos with just at-most 15% public self-interested support), then from without–contagion has to be stopped cold.

  8. Forget the “boiled frog” theories.

    This hasn’t “exploded” yet (If “exploding” means outright hunting prieto, motta and the other chabiztas like animals) because no one’s been able to lead the movement.

    Without leadership that organizes the people, no protest movement will achieve anything meaningful.

  9. I was poking through the forum section of Aporrea. Admins and commentators seem to have given up, I even see widespread mentions of the cucuta rate of the greenback which in theory is strictly forbidden.

  10. Careful, Pilkunnussija. There is some real loonie tune derp in those forum posts, especially the conspiracy theorists (although they are also entertaining). Be sure to delete your browser history and take shower when done reading them.

    • I find it therapeutic, in a way. It may be that many of us who grew up in Venezuela learned certain dictums: “speculation is evil”, “shopkeepers who raise prices are the problem”, “the Esequibo belongs to Venezuela”, etc, which are factually misleading or incorrect but difficult to rectify, and are therefore of some help in explaining why Venezuela has become such a shithole.


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