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Solidarity, survival and sabotage: reconstructing the history of the blackouts tormenting Venezuela

While Venezuela’s government and the Chavista movement proclaimed victory over the worst blackouts to plague the country, Washington’s coup masters have promised more darkness until their goals are complete.

by Misión Verdad

Part 6 - The harsh consequences of the blackout and Guaidó’s destabilization plan

The blackouts caused serious discomfort and inconvenience for most Venezuelans. But they also prompted a striking show of resilience, as citizens came together to defy the attempts to destabilize their society.

National media outlets like El Universal and El Correo del Orinoco reported through their social media platforms that the traffic system of Caracas had collapsed due mainly to the interruption of electric power during peak hours. The operations of the Caracas Metro were stopped and the population had to travel by foot or by other means in order to get home on March 7.

The loss of electricity led to the collapse of the electronic payment platforms and their systems, generating serious complications for consumers throughout the country soon after the blackout. This platform malfunctions would only worsen, as banking institutions saw their backup generating systems also collapse because of the excessive number of transactions made during those hours. Offline points of sale, combined with the deficiencies in cash flow, limited the purchasing capabilities of the Venezuelan population during the following Friday and Saturday.

Sales and perishable goods such as meats and vegetables were also affected. The National Federation of Cattle Management reported a 2 million kg of beef loss during the blackout in slaughterhouses across the nation. In the majority of households, families chose to consume these foods as soon as possible.

In cities with high temperatures, such as Maracaibo, where the use of air conditioners is common, the discomfort was even greater. The water service was affected in cities and towns that depend on hydraulic pumps for their supply.

There was also a telephone and internet interruption throughout the country. The CANTV, ABA, Movilnet, Digitel and Movistar servers, which rely on battery powered transmitting antennas, experienced a progressive drop of their signals as the power of their antennas ran out. Cable service platforms were also affected, with the exception of satellite platforms such as DirectTv. Many families and businesses with power plants were able to access national and foreign TV services through these satellite signals.

In many cities, the interruption of open radio and television signals was reported. Many stations don’t have power plants and those that did survived thanks to backup generators. This meant that besides the electrical blackout, there was also an information blackout, given that many of the few private broadcasters still on air were simply playing music, violating their obligation to keep the population informed about the events under development.

The interference in communication systems and the radio-electric spectrum was the perfect recipe for a toxic broth of misinformation, especially in the Andean region, allowing fake news to overwhelm the reality of the situation.

All these components – rumors, false information, distortions and half truths – pushed a noticeable percentage of the population into a frenzied and anxious state of mind.

In the State of Zulia, violent groups looted deposits belonging to Empresas Polar: beer, soft drinks and other beverages. Guaidó justified the looting on the grounds that it was motivated by hunger.

Many service stations do not have a generator to support the supply of fuel. Lines for gasoline were seen in places throughout the country and the mobility of the population was seriously affected, while gas was redirected to supplying generators around the country. Rubio’s prophecy of the collapse of gasoline and food distribution had begun to to materialize. But the continuity of the PDVSA system of fuel distribution mitigated the impact, and the transportation of people and food was maintained, albeit at half throttle.

In some cities, barricades and road closures appeared as an immediate response to Guaidó’s calls for violence. Other known figures from the Venezuelan political opposition tried to provoke reactions among the population and called for their followers to spread the chaos nationwide. But most rejected the appeals for chaos, ensuring that any eruptions of violence that did occur were isolated and insignificant. The ultimate effect of the blackout was keep most people in their homes.

By Sunday the 10th, the government announced the partial restoration of electricity in several cities throughout the country. This helped restore calm while testifying to the resilience of a population that was able to manage the dire situation with support from their families and through communal solidarity.

Information began circulating on cellular platforms and TV networks about the recovery of the electrical system as well as news of nationwide social stability and the noticeable absence of violent elements seeking destabilization.

By Monday, Maduro had informed the nation about the army’s actions during the contingency plan, the deployment of its security mechanisms and declared victory over the electric sabotage. The president instructed the military corps to supply fuel to all health center plants in areas that were still affected and emphasized the return of communication platforms and other services dependent on the electrical system.

From that point, Maduro made it clear that it was the Bolivarian Government and not any other political element that would use strategic management to assume the task of normalizing daily activities. The announcement was a substantial setback to the destabilization plans. The ultimate goals of Washington – social fragmentation and chaos – remained unmet thanks to the rapid government and society-wide response.

By Tuesday, the electrical system appeared to be returning to normal and was overcoming its vulnerabilities. The reinstallation and start-up of the electric distribution was similar to the recovery of the main PDVSA system in 2003 during the oil industry sabotage enacted by the opposition, but this time, with a greater sense of commitment and a greater level of clarity about the severity of the scenario.

Maduro declared victory over the assault on the electricity grid, framing the event as one of the most significant events in the protection of the country’s population.

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