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Political tensions increase as Venezuela scrambles to restore power in nationwide blackouts

in Latin America/World Affairs by

Massive power outages leave the country at a standstill while two of the most powerful political parties battle.

Monday marks the fifth day that most of Venezuela, including its capital, Caracas, sit in darkness. The country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, points to the US for disruptions in the nation’s electrical grid, while, the self-elected interim president, Juan Guaidó, says the system’s sabotage is the doing of the Maduro Administration.

Last Thursday, Venezuela fell into darkness when 70% of the country lost power. The main supplier of power, the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric station, also known as Guri dam, lost power when a transformer blew. 22 of the 23 states were affected, causing the closure of its metro system, traffic lighting and communications. Hospitals only allowed the most critical patients to be admitted. One of the most crushing blows was the stoppage of oil extraction plants. Every day, Venezuela loses US $400 million.

By Saturday, reports of intermittent power in blackout areas faded back to a total shutdown by Sunday. According to Al Jazeera, Maduro stated at a press conference that the cause were international cyber attacks led by the US.

Told Guaidó to CNN, it was Maduro’s failure in maintaining the country’s infrastructure. He said, “We are in the middle of a catastrophe that is not the result of a hurricane, that is not the result of a tsunami . . . It’s the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn’t care about the lives of Venezuelans.”

A troubled economy

In the past, Venezuela has rationed power and water to deal with its economic crisis. Many factors play into the decline. The combination of a petro-bust in a country whose currency is backed by oil, along with a drought leading to the dramatic decrease of agriculture and manufacturing, became a more dire situation as citizen protests grew and the support of international allies weakened. Nonetheless, as Maduro’s loyalists hold tight, Guaidó’s supporters remain avid.

On Saturday, Maduro and Guaidó held opposing rallies in Caracas. Maduro with his supporters maintained that he will stand firm in his position. In a tweet, he posted.

US imperialism does not know the strength of this brave people that carry in their veins the blood of the Liberators of America. We have overcome all aggressions with revolutionary courage, and we will continue standing up; firm defending the sovereignty of our country.

At Guaidó’s street assembly, he stated that he will bring to opposition party members the option to enact Article 187. This law states that the National Assembly has the power to authorize the use of Venezuela military missions abroad or to allow foreign missions in the country. Currently, the National Assembly is a de jure legislature. The de facto legislative body is the Constituent Assembly.

US puts more pressure on Venezuela’s finances

Caracas, Venezuela – February 20, 2019: National Assembly President Juan Guaido at a rally in the Capital district.

This past January, Guaidó, inaugurated himself as interim president at a demonstration protesting the Maduro Administration. Since, the US government and over 60 countries have recognized him. As of late, the US continues to escalate sanction against the South American country. On Monday, the Treasury Department announced that it forfeited all property and assets of Evrofinance Mosnarbank that were in the US. The bank is a Moscow-based bank that is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchi said in a statement. “The illegitimate Maduro regime has profited off of the suffering of the Venezuelan people.” He continued.  “This action demonstrates that the United States will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela.”

Maduro remains steadfast that he will not remove himself from his position as president.

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