Venezuelan Authorities Investigate Alleged Sabotage of National Power Grid UPDATED

Following power outages that affected 70% of the country yesterday, the Venezuelan government has accused the far right of a rehearsal of an “electric coup”.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Short URL

d42ce933-9717-4b6d-b0cc-5c5cba13fb11.jpeg

The president has praised Corpoelec's response to the blackouts, which he has blamed on sabotage (VTV/Archive)
The president has praised Corpoelec's response to the blackouts, which he has blamed on sabotage (VTV/Archive)

Merida, 4th September 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following power outages that affected 70% of the country yesterday, the Venezuelan government has accused the far right of a rehearsal of an “electric coup”.

At approximately 12.30pm local time the Capital District and 12 states in the west and centre of the country experienced widespread blackouts.

Reports of outages came from the states of Zulia, Lara, Falcon, Tachira, Merida, Miranda, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Cojedes, Aragua, Vargas, Carabobo along with parts of the capital.

The cuts reportedly affected public transport, including the Caracas subway, and forced some businesses to close. According to state news agency AVN, power was restored in most parts of the country by early evening.

Minister for Communication and Information Delcy Rodriguez told media that five states and the capital had regained power by 5.30pm, though outages persisted in some areas of the country into the night. At around 8pm, the state electricity company Corpoelec informed the public via Twitter that it was continuing to “work hard to standardise service in the affected areas”.

“The full recovery of this important service will occur gradually,” the energy minister Jesse Chacon stated.

Earlier today, Minister for Health Isabel Iturria publicly announced that the outages had not caused any serious problems for public health services. “We have no reports of emergencies in any health centers,” she said, stating that many hospitals had used back up power generators.

Venezuela's oil industry was likewise reportedly unaffected by the blackout.

According to Chacon, the outages were caused by a technical failure on the 765kV transmission line- a central section of the electricity grid though which over half of the western/central region's electricity passes. The minister stated that an investigation into the cause of the incident has already been launched.

Last night, in a live address aired by VTV, President Nicolas Maduro praised Corpoelec for its handling of the incident. He also commended the state media for its coverage. The president blamed “twisted and desperate minds” for the blackout, alleging sabotage.

“Today [yesterday], a dress rehearsal for an electrical coup was initiated against the Venezuelan people,” he stated. The president stated that in the days leading up to the incident there were “various signs” and “threats” of possible sabotage.

“They have been talking about 'operation tic tac '”, he stated, referring to far right groups which he alleged are engaging in “a low-level war” against the government. Maduro stated that authorities suspect “a small group” of rightists may have carried out the alleged sabotage. No evidence of foul play was provided, though Maduro stated that more information would be provided soon.

In the meantime, he stated that he has ordered the “mobilisation” of the armed forces, and called on Venezuelans to offer “maximum cooperation” with authorities.“Everything seems to indicate that the extreme right has resumed its plan for an electrical strike against the country,” Maduro tweeted.

Justice and Internal Affairs Minister Miguel Rodriguez likewise indicated that given the size of the blackout, authorities are not ruling out sabotage.

“We are starting an investigation, and the state security forces are deployed throughout the country to guard the population,” he said. Yesterday Venezuela's national intelligence agency Sebin  dispatched investigation teams in multiple areas, according to Rodriguez.

Opposition governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles rejected Maduro's allegations, arguing instead that the outages are a sign that the government is “incapable”.

“The blackout today shows once again the terrible failure of the [government],” he tweeted. “Venezuelans deserve to have a country without blackouts,” he stated in another Twitter message.

The head of MUD aligned Voluntad Popular Leopoldo Lopez labeled Maduro's accusations as “predictable”.

Today, Maduro met with military and energy sector officials in Caracas to further discuss the incident.

UPDATE: Following Wednesday's meeting, Maduro announced the creation of a “Security and Intelligence Unit” to counter possible future cases of sabotage of electricity infrastructure.

“We must consolidate the balance between generation and consumption, focusing efforts on system security against calculated sabotage,” he tweeted last night.