Sabotage brings electrical and political uncertainty to Venezuela


First published on on March 10. Translation by Michael Otto.

March 10 — The night from Friday to Saturday brought some calm to Venezuela. Electricity returned in 70 percent of the country after more than 24 hours of power cuts. In each home, the same gestures were repeated — plugging in refrigerators and telephones, communicating, and opening faucets so water flowed from electrical pumps.

In the morning the lines in the streets multiplied to get food that people can barely afford due to hyperinflation. The electric power returned temporarily.  It was 11:30 on Saturday morning.

By that time the opposition was already assembled on Victoria Avenue in Caracas for the mobilization that Juan Guaidó called last Monday when he returned to the country after visiting Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. It was the main activity on his agenda after a meeting with some public administration unions on Tuesday.

Chavismo, in turn, assembled in the center-west of Caracas before proceeding to the Miraflores Palace. Dates like this March 9 — the fourth anniversary of Obama’s decree declaring Venezuela an unusual and extraordinary threat — are usually a demonstration of the contending class forces, of images where the city is divided by zones in which the people turn their backs on each other aesthetically and politically. Chavismo is dressed in red and the opposition in white. The social class divide is marked, with a majority of popular sectors and a few middle classes participating with Chavismo and an inverse proportion participating with the right wing.

The mobilizations took shape in the context of the latest power cut, its consequent effects of exhaustion, anger and uncertainty, with danger in  hospitals and factories. The information circulating through networks was limited; WhatsApp groups were almost inactive; the facts, few and far between, were only corroborated as time went by.

Guaidó, who spoke through a bullhorn, announced that he will call for a new mobilization in Caracas. He set no date. “We have to seize and conquer power, take over spaces … we must be united so that we all come together, so that all of Venezuela comes to Caracas. They want to demobilize us, it is up to us.”

Guaidó’s remarks were well received among his followers. Tension grew, with those in the crowd calling for “intervention” and Guaidó’s relatively weak response. He declared he could appeal to Article 187 of the Constitution, which would open the door to intervention, as he put it, “when the time comes.” The demand [for imperialist intervention] has been growing strongly in right-wing sectors since Feb. 23, when the trucks failed to enter with “humanitarian aid.”

It’s not only the rank and file of the right-wing who call for intervention. Some leaders, like Antonio Ledezma, are also calling for it. “Get on with it president @jguaido, formally demand humanitarian intervention,” he tweeted before the mobilization.

Maduro blames U.S. and right-wing

Nicolás Maduro spoke a little later in front of the Miraflores Palace. He spoke about the chronology of the five attacks, including physical attacks on generation stations, electromagnetic attacks on transmission networks and cyber attacks on the computerised control system.

Maduro said that the 70 percent of the power that had been restored on Friday night was damaged again on Saturday at noon. He focused  responsibility for the strategy of attacking the electrical system conceived by the United States, with the complicity of the right wing and what he called “infiltrators in the electrical company.”

The demonstrations took place in a city with calm, attempts by families to connect, and concern about a possible new night in the dark with all its consequences. They caused no provocations in the streets after two days of starting #MegaApagon (MegaPoweroutage) — as it appears in twitter — and it is not too far out to suppose that one of the goals sought through the attack is just to get the population to go out into the streets to protest. Some parts of the country have not had service restored since Thursday, March 7.

What’s involved is a push to re-establish and stabilize the electrical system — which had previously presented difficulties in different parts of Venezuela — to reduce the chain of damage caused by the prolonged national outage. It can be anticipated that sabotage will continue and expand, as Guaidó predicted during Saturday’s event: “We must announce responsibly that this will lead to a gasoline crisis.”

The end of the afternoon brought uncertainty about the present and for the days to come. The right wing gave no dates for a demonstration, and it seems clear that the strategy of prolonged wear-and-tear on the people is the card that they intend to play to cause all it can. It generates burnout, uncertainty and chaos, while it does not expose the opposition — which denies any responsibility for its actions. One of the axes of the dispute is thus centered around how events are interpreted.

The days have grown tense in the balance between the return of light and the loss of power, the need to adapt in the face of an unprecedented landscape of siege that forces the nation to resist.

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