Venezuela: The Blackouts and What’s Next

By Marco Teruggi from Caracas on March 31, 2019

Large Chavista demonstration last Saturday in Caracas

Once again we found ourselves with no power supply. We sat down on the balcony and watched as candles and lanterns were turned on inside buildings along with some cacerolas (pot banging in protest) that went on for a few minutes. Then silence… Caracas’ great silence, in its valley, hills and slums. It was 7:10 pm and the third blackout of the week. It’s hard to keep count though; the power supply comes and goes repeatedly. Numbers are not important, but what people are feeling: fatigue, physical exhaustion, and the knock-down effect due to the lack of the subway system, of running water, of telecommunications and the uncertainty is.

The answer in the slums was the same again, people in the streets, a domino match lit by car lights, some beers where possible, calm, the wait for the power to return, messages, Wi-Fi. Pans were banged in middle class areas for a while, then silence. Despite expectations, there was no explosion. Two plus two is not always equal to four in Venezuela, or perhaps it does if you look at it from the depths of the working class’ perspective.

Electricity was restored by 10:15 pm but once again it failed an hour later. About 20 states were affected as well as nearly the entirety of Caracas. It’s shocking to see Caracas at a standstill, especially looking down from the hill. After three weeks of war against the power supply, Chavistas are certain, through facts, that it comes from a strategy to exhaust the population amid a coup d’état. The Right accuses the Government for corruption and inefficiency. Most people believe there will be more power cuts.

Saturdays have become a day for demonstrations on behalf of Chavistas and, sometimes, the Right. It is however difficult to get there, as was the case last Saturday, when the city was once again without the subway system given the blackout. This was the second time Chavistas faced a demonstration without the subway system and, just as was it the first time, they displayed strength.

They ratified again -just as they had earlier this year- that they represent a popular force that has not lost power, contrary to the Right’s expectation.

Juan Guaido, meanwhile, had convened a day of protests due to power cuts. His event had worrisome limited participation considering his need to show he represents some sort of base. The Guaido effect is vanishing; his two major concerns are promising what he could not do and being similar to a typical right-wing Venezuelan leader , one of those rejected by his own social group given how fraudulent those right wing leaders are. He is beginning to look a lot like them

What’s next? Guaido announced there will be a “first mock Operacion Libertad (Operation Freedom).” He has not explained yet what the operation consists of; regarding just what he is simulating leading to even more disappointment to those who believe in the immediate overthrow of Nicolas Maduro. Over two months later the images are clear: Chavismo has maintained its power to mobilize people, while the Right is in the process of losing even the amount of people gathered on January 23rd.

There is the usual calm in the streets of Caracas but the international confrontation is escalating. First, Donald Trump, in an event to welcome Guaido’s wife Fabiana Rosales, affirmed “Russia must leave Venezuela.” He referred to two Russian aircrafts that landed in Caracas airport on March 23rd with equipment and officers to carry out technical-military contracts between the two countries.

He was answered back by Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zajarova, who affirmed that, “neither Venezuela nor Russia are provinces belonging to the United States.” And she added, “Before advising someone else to leave any place, the United States should implement its own process of withdrawal, especially in Syria… A month has passed and I’d like to understand, have you left yet?”

Shortly before Russia’s response, China had issued its own statements backing the Venezuelan Administration. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang stated, “Latin American affairs are not a certain country’s exclusive business, nor is Latin America a certain country’s backyard.”

Venezuela has become the point where geopolitical disputes meet, particularly between the U.S. and Russia. The aggravating condition for Donald Trump and the North American State is that this game is being played in a territory that should be under the exclusive control for the U.S.

The developments on the international level had another element to it this week when the Red Cross affirmed it will distribute humanitarian aid in Venezuela in two weeks. It has not issued information as to how they will do it and whether they talked to the Venezuelan Government about that or not. They highlighted the “apolitical” nature of the humanitarian aid, but the Right claimed the announcement as their achievement and its policy meets exactly to what the United States proposes. Time will tell about the Red Cross’s objectives. So far, in Venezuela these days, there is some sort of stable lack of stability.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau