Without electricity, water and communications, Venezuelans meet three days Sunday unprecedented blackout that left more than 79 patients dead and threatens to continue indefinitely, increasing the anguish suffered by the severe political and economic crisis that hits the oil country.
The massive suspension of electricity service, the worst recorded in this country of 30 million inhabitants, began on Thursday at 4:30 pm local (20H53 GMT), taking dramatic tones: the dead are kidney patients who could not receive dialysis, according to the NGO Codevida.
Hospitals that have generators use them only for emergencies. The country is practically paralyzed with closed businesses and little transportation, without labor or school activities. Among the population, the concern increases because food begins to be damaged and water is scarce.
“I’ve spent three nights in a lot of anguish. I am very nervous because this situation is not resolved, the little food we have in the fridge is going to spoil us. How long are we going to put up with this? “Francisca Rojas, a 62-year-old retired woman living in eastern Caracas, told AFP.
The energy crisis became the new pulse for power between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó, a parliamentary leader recognized by more than 50 countries as interim president of Venezuela.
Maduro denounced “electromagnetic attacks” on the “brain” of the Guri hydroelectric plant, located in Bolívar state (south), the largest in Venezuela and the second in Latin America, after Itaipú (Brazil-Paraguay).
Guaidó and experts blame the government for lack of investment and maintenance, and for corruption, in the face of recurrent interruptions in electricity service, mainly in the interior of the country, but the authorities denounce constant acts of “sabotage”.
From bad to worse
The huge electrical failure comes to punish even more a population suffering from shortages of medicines and food, and hyperinflation.
“Every day worse. We have the worst services in the world: no electricity, no water, sometimes no gas, “said Edward Cazano, 20, who lives with his mother and three younger brothers in the Caracas neighborhood of Pinto Salinas.
Many supermarkets are closed because they do not have generating plants. No one can withdraw cash from ATMs or use any type of cards, in a country where electronic transactions are vital even for small operations because there is no cash.
In a country with an exodus of 2.7 million Venezuelans since 2015 according to the UN, incommunicado detention is distressing. Trying to get a signal from their mobile phones, many cars are parked at the edge of the Francisco Fajardo highway, the main one in Caracas, where there are repeaters nearby.
“I have my son and my brother outside of Venezuela, and they want to know about us. In addition, I want to see some news, “the young Bernardette Ramírez told AFP.
In Caracas and its periphery, where six million people live, the Metro was still suspended, forcing people to take long walks. Long lines of cars are formed in a few service stations that work, fearing that gasoline will soon be missing.
Dozens of people are still stranded at the international airport of Maiquetía before the suspension of several flights.
The service has been restored for just a few hours in these three days. But the cut continues to affect Caracas and 22 of the country’s 23 states, without the authorities defining how long it will take to normalize the supply.
In his first public appearance since the beginning of the blackout, Maduro said Saturday before a crowd of supporters in Caracas that progress had been made in reconnecting nearly 70% of the country, but another attack, he said, “knocked down everything that had been achieved.”
Before the prolongation of the crisis, the socialist president announced the distribution of subsidized food in popular neighborhoods, water and hospital assistance.
Reinforcing its offensive in this energy crisis, Guaidó announced on Sunday, before thousands of followers, a national tour with deputies to define the date of a mobilization to Caracas.
Guaidó also reiterated his willingness to authorize the action of a foreign force, insuring that “all options are on the table,” as the United States has said about the possible use of a military action in Venezuela.
Maduro maintains a tough confrontation with the Trump administration, which warns an aggression against Guaidó will have “serious consequences”.
“Everything has its moment (…) and I do not shake my pulse to do justice,” Maduro said at the request of his followers to capture Guaidó, whom he called a “clown” and puppet. “
Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez announced that Venezuela will denounce the United States for the blackout and present the “evidence of sabotage” to a mission of the UN Human Rights Office that will arrive in the country on Sunday.