Merseyside, United Kingdom, February 15 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The Venezuelan government has accused foreign agencies of foul play in promoting a power outage that affected much of Caracas and part of neighbouring Miranda state.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, residents in both states found themselves without electricity for up to five hours, after an explosion at the state-owned Santa Teresa 3 electricity plant in Miranda led to a widespread power outage.
Speaking on Venezuelan state television network VTV Wednesday, Electric Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez explained that an “overload had made the transformer explode and produce a fire, causing damage that left without electricity a good part of Greater Caracas, a part of Miranda, specifically Santa Teresa, [and] also Guarenas, Guatire”.
The minister had previously posted a photo of the fire hours earlier on Instagram, alleging that the plant had been intentionally sabotaged and describing the act as “part of the empire’s plan”.
“This act of vandalism and terrorism affects a great part of the capital region,” he wrote.
The government has long accused the opposition of sabotaging the publicly owned electricity grid in a bid to undermine the Nicolas Maduro administration.
On several occasions Domínguez has published the details of cases in which would-be saboteurs were allegedly electrocuted while attempting to manipulate electricity pylons, resulting in several casualties and some fatalities.
The energy minister’s statements on the explosion come as the United States, Canada, Europe and allied governments in Latin America have stepped up their pressure on the Venezuelan government after it announced the bringing forward of presidential elections to April 22nd in early February.
On February 1, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a tour of five allied governments in the region to gauge support for an oil embargo against Caracas, with talks between the government and opposition collapsing shortly after with no agreement. The government has blamed interference from Washington for the opposition’s sudden decision to renege at the last minute on a agreement that had been negotiated over months as part of international mediation.
Nonetheless, the government’s accusation that the explosion was a result of foul play has been publicly questioned by elected trade union leader Elio Palacios, Secretary General of the United Trade Union of the Working Class in the Electric Sector in Caracas, Vargas and Miranda.
In a Whatsapp message widely circulated following news of the electricity plant fire, Palacios accused Dominguez of being responsible for the current difficulties facing state energy company CORPOLEC, which he said were due to underinvestment in infrastructure maintenance and the resignation of technicians and engineers due to low wages.
The trade union leader also called for the resignation of the top-management of the company, accusing them of taking poor decisions, and warned that the country’s electricity system was facing imminent collapse.
Palacios was promptly arrested for questioning by Venezuela’s SEBIN national intelligence agency on Wednesday morning, causing widespread outcry from Venezuela’s Communist Party (PCV), who expressed solidarity with Palacios against what they called an arbitrary arrest.
“We are making an urgent call to all organisations of the workers’ movement and to the class trade unions of the country and the world, to demand the liberation of comrade Elio Palacios and an end to practices which criminalise the struggles and complaints that the workers and their class leaders assume and put forward,” said the PCV.
So far it is unclear whether charges will be brought against the union leader, who had also called for a demonstration in Caracas next Wednesday.
The Santa Teresa 3 electricity plant is now up-and-running and operating at 90% capacity, according to authorities.