A Dark Day

Some parts of Caracas have had electricity for a couple of hours, power hasn’t been restored in the rest of the country. It’s been 43 hours already. Chavismo blames the usual suspects: the U.S. and Guaidó, who reiterated his call to march this Saturday. In Caracas, the final rallying point will be the Victoria avenue.

Photo: Naky Soto

The blackout started in the afternoon of Thursday, March 7th. In my area, we lost service at 4:30 p.m. and recovered it this Friday at about 6:43 p.m. for about three hours; then we lost and recovered it twice more, in 40-minute periods. Without water, without internet and, due to leak in our building’s piping, without cooking gas; the dark night was only interrupted by a thicket set on fire near the parking lot. The closest fire brigade didn’t have water to deal with the emergency and at 3:00 a.m., a group of neighbors went out with their buckets to put the fire out.

Lies and Chávez

Few stations kept their usual programming, but the regime chose to fill their silence with audios of Hugo Chávez (they have thousands in reserve) combined with statements from the spokespeople able to talk about the blackout: regime Electricity Minister Luis Motta Domínguez, Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López and Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez. For some reason, Nicolás decided to manage his “supports” through Twitter instead of appearing before a camera or a microphone. Motta Domínguez claimed on Friday that the blackout would be solved in three hours. He didn’t talk again after that period had passed; thus we arrive to Delcy’s version, who summed up the blackout as an American attack, blaming it on U.S. senator Marco Rubio and the Venezuelan democratic cause, another of the many sabotages that they’ve managed to carry out despite chavismo’s defense system. Padrino López busied himself congratulating citizens for not giving in to the temptation of protest and promised to increase security in the streets to “preserve people’s peace,” which was read as a promise of militarization.

A repeated script

Jorge Rodríguez said that the blackout was “the most brutal attack against the Venezuelan people in 200 years,” and later (with a rather cheerful tone for a tragedy) he blamed U.S. senator Marco Rubio, State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Vice-President Mike Pence and our caretaker President Juan Guaidó for the outage, claiming that it was executed through a cyberattack against the control system of the machines at Guri, the hydroelectric dam that produces 70% of the country’s electricity.

His evidence is a bunch of tweets that he took as confessions and based on them, he said that the culprits halted the automated regulation system. He claimed that they’d internationally denounce this attack and said to U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, that the U.S. “has no right to shut down the electric system.” In his version only, the contingency plans of hospitals worked and they even started power plants that weren’t there.

Another version

A source in CORPOELEC talked with El Pitazo and summed up the blackout as the consequence of a plant fire that affected three transmission lines of the 765 Kv system between the Guri dam and the Malena substation. These three lines are the greatest contributor of energy in the Main Transmission Network and since 2018, they’ve been covered by plants. Chavismo militarized Guri facilities, but transmission’s the actual big problem: “Although they can generate energy in Guri, they can’t distribute it without the 765 Kv system, which is where 85% of the energy is distributed to the country’s central region,” the engineer told El Pitazo. The thermal power stations of immediate response are also out of order.

This blackout is the product of chavismo’s insatiable corruption, a power group that has decided to place loyalists in key posts, politicizing technical managements; a group that has kept electricity subsidized, paying terrible salaries to trained staffers; a group that has protected those who embezzled the electric sector’s resources to bankruptcy; a group that knows that the blackout was their choice.

The regime’s narrative is far from reality. That has prevented them for years from solving actual problems, that’s why they stack up, grow and collapse. In their imaginary world of conspiracies and sabotage, they end up trampling many innocents.

Tareck sued

This Friday, a New York court filed criminal charges against regime economic vice-president Tareck El Aissami, whom they accuse of violating restrictions imposed by his alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

Businessman Samark López Bello, considered El Aissami’s frontman, was also indicted. The U.S. Justice Department detailed in a statement that both violated the Act for which they were included among sanctioned individuals for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking by travelling in a private plane from Russia to Venezuela. El Aissami “has used his position of power to get involved in international drug trafficking” and “has sidestepped the sanctions and violated U.S. Act on Foreign Drug Kingpins,” said Ángel Meléndez, special agent of the National Security Department. El Aissami is accused of facilitating the shipment of narcotics, controlling the departure of planes and drug trafficking routes. If he’s arrested and extradited to the U.S., El Aissami faces a maximum sentence of 30 years; while that happens, other individuals involved in his case were arrested yesterday: Alejandro Antonio Quintavalle and Michols Orsini Quintero, Panamanians; Víctor Mones Coro and Alejandro León Maal, Venezuelan pilots with U.S. nationality.

We, migrants

A report presented this Friday by the OAS in Washington says that the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants could surpass 5 million in 2019, and that it could reach 8.2 million people in 2020, if the current trend holds. The report highlighted that the magnitude and speed of our migration flow bears similarities with other episodes of mass crises caused by wars, such as in Syria or Afghanistan. According to the report, between 2015 and 2018, at least 3.4 million people fled Venezuela, which represents over 10% of the country’s population. This flow means that 5,000 people leave every day, some 200 people per hour. “The speed in the growth of the total number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is as high as the Syrian crisis in its first years,” the report says. The document states that “independent reports say that at least 1.3 million Venezuelan migrants suffer nutrition problems.”

Movements on the board

The World Bank’s Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes sentenced Venezuela to pay $8.4 billion (plus interests) for nationalizing ConocoPhillips’ assets in 2007. This is the highest sentence against a country. José Ignacio Hernández, the Special Prosecutor appointed by Juan Guaidó, said: “We are aware of the award rendered in the ICSID case ConocoPhillips vs. Venezuela. We would like to inform that we will be exercising all the actions in order to protect the  interests of Venezuela.”

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced the opening of a refugee reception center in the Colombian city of Maicao to assist Venezuelan migrants.

U.S. Special Envoy Elliott Abrams said that there are no discussions with Cuba on Nicolás Maduro’s future and that the nationwide blackout is a reminder that the country’s infrastructure has been pillaged and has collapsed under chavimo’s disastrous management: “Maduro’s policies only bring darkness,” he said.

Caretaker President Juan Guaidó restated his call to take to the streets this Saturday demanding the end of usurpation. I’m already there.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.