Venezuela announces a 30-day plan to ration power - GulfToday

Venezuela announces a 30-day plan to ration power

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Nicolas Maduro announcing a 30-day electricity rationing plan at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. AFP

CARACAS:Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday announced a 30-day plan to ration electricity following nationwide power cuts that have inflicted misery on millions of people and ignited protests, including one near the presidential palace in Caracas.

The rationing plan will help deal with the outages that have also cut off water supply and communications for days at a time, Maduro said in a speech on national television in which he also warned against any unrest in reaction to the blackouts.

In his speech, Maduro said “colectivos” and other pro-government groups should keep order as Venezuela grapples with the blackouts, which he has blamed on US-led sabotage without offering clear evidence.

“We’re confronting monsters who want to destroy Venezuela,” said Maduro, who said the electricity rationing would balance generation and transmission with consumption, with the aim of ensuring water supply.

Authorities acknowledged that there was not enough electricity to go around.

“To achieve consistency in the provision of electricity, the government decided to maintain the suspension of school activities and establish a workday until 2:00 pm in public and private institutions,” Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on state television.

With no electricity, pumping stations can’t work so water service is limited. Street lights and traffic lights go dark, pumps at fuel stations stand idle, and cell phone and internet service is non-existent.

“This is going to continue, the situation is very serious, there will be more blackouts and rationing,” said Winton Cabas, president of the Venezuelan association of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

“The whole power grid is barely generating between 5,500 and 6,000 megawatts, when it has the capacity to generate 34,000 megawatts,” he told.

Maduro on Sunday night said the country would begin a programme of “load administration,” which Venezuelans on social media interpreted as a program of power rationing, without providing details on when it would start.

Electricity supplies have been intermittent in the capital city Caracas for several days. On Monday morning, the power was on in some blocks but not in adjacent ones.

Maduro, a socialist, has blamed the outages on “attacks” on the Guri hydroelectric plant in southeastern Venezuela, which supplies electricity to most of the country, by the United States and the domestic opposition.

His critics and local electrical engineers consulted by Reuters said the blackouts were due to years of underinvestment and lack of maintenance of the country’s electrical infrastructure.

Hours before Maduro’s appeal for calm, protests broke out in neighbourhoods in the capital and other cities following a call by opposition leader Juan Guaido to demonstrate against the government’s failure to provide basic services. Many took to balconies and building windows to bang pots in protest and shout curses at Maduro. They also burned trash and blocked roads.

While police did not intervene in most cases, alleged government supporters known as “colectivos” appeared in some areas on motorbikes and threatened protesters, who quickly dispersed. The “colectivos” are sometimes armed and video posted on social media showed masked men as well as men firing shots in the streets.

Guaido says years of government neglect, mismanagement and corruption have left the electrical grid in shambles.

“There is no sabotage,” the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly wrote on Twitter. “They brought the electrical system to a collapse because they are corrupt and now they can’t resolve it because they are incapable.”

Some of the protests on Sunday occurred near the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, in a direct challenge to Maduro.

“No one can put up with this. We spend almost all day without electricity,” said Karina Camacho, a 56-year-old housewife who was about to buy a chicken when electronic payment machines stopped working. “There’s been no water since (last) Monday, you can’t call by phone, we can’t pay with cards or even eat.”

Meanwhile, Venezuelans on Monday prepared to hold protests over continued shortages of power and water following angry demonstrations as the government of President Nicolas Maduro appeared prepared to begin a rationing programme.

Agencies