Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced that he had replaced the country’s electricity minister amid a string of three nationwide blackouts that sparked protests against the lack of basic services including water supply.
Reuters quoted Maduro as saying the new minister is an electrical engineer. This, however, is unlikely to help much with the root causes of the crisis, which some observers have attributed to years of underinvestment in power plants and the grid. Maduro himself blamed the first blackout on the United States, calling it sabotage.
The news about the new appointment follows an announcement from earlier this week that electricity will be rationed for at least a month following the third blackout in a month. The rationing, Maduro said, will help the authorities deal with the consequences of the power outages.
The blackouts are the latest in a host of woes for the sanction-stricken country. The first one crippled the already ailing economy and paralyzed Venezuela’s oil industry. So did the second one, which shut down the country’s most important oil export terminal, the port of Jose, temporarily suspending vital shipments of oil amid a shrinking client base.
This may shrink further as reports emerged last week that Washington was pressuring commodity traders to stop buying Venezuelan crude even if the deals were not in violation of the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.
The country’s oil industry has also suffered from the power outages just when Venezuela needs to export more of its falling production. The blackouts extended from the port of Jose to the four upgraders that process Venezuela’s superheavy crude into a liquid making it fit for exporting.
According to a recent Reuters survey, Venezuela’s production fell by 150,000 bpd as a result of the blackouts, adding to an ongoing decline resulting from a lack of maintenance and seriously aggravated by the U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil industry specifically as the main revenue generator for the Maduro government.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
The US-funded CANVAS organization that trained Juan Guaido and his allies produced a 2010 memo on exploiting electricity outages and urged the opposition “to take advantage of the situation…towards their needs”
Looting and violence are rapidly on the rise as Venezuela enters its fifth day without power across most of the country though some reports suggest as much as 30% of power has returned to parts of the capital city Caracas.
Much of Venezuela is still in the dark — now four days running — after the worst blackout on modern record in Latin America enveloped the country last Thursday evening. And as of Saturday, Reuters reported at least 17 deaths at hospitals across the country attributable to the power outage, given many hospitals are now for days completely reliant on back-up generators to keep life saving ventilators and other medical devices going. Other reports have claimed multiple dozens of deaths across the country, especially in hospital neonatal units.
Venezuela currently experiences multiple total outages of its electricity network. It is quite possible or even likely that the U.S. is causing these incidents. But it is not certain.
Venezuela shut schools and suspended the workday on Friday as the worst blackout in decades paralyzed most of the troubled nation for a second day, spurring outrage among citizens already suffering from hyperinflation and a crippling recession.
Living conditions in Venezuela show no signs of improving as people there have taken to eating spoiled meat just to keep themselves alive. The AP reports that people in the city of Maracaibo have been lining up for a chance to buy spoiled meat as the rolling power outages that have been plaguing the area get worse and refrigerators fail.
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