Venezuela: Guaido Barred from Public Office as Maduro Announces Temporary Electricity Rationing

Workers from other industries have flocked to the Guri Dam to help repair the fire damage.

By Paul Dobson
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Workers from a range of other industries, such as oil, steel, and other basic industries joined electrical workers to repair the fire damage (@Drodriguezven / Twitter)
Workers from a range of other industries, such as oil, steel, and other basic industries joined electrical workers to repair the fire damage (@Drodriguezven / Twitter)

Merida, March 28, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido has been barred from holding public office for fifteen years following a ruling by Venezuela’s Ombudsman Elvis Amoroso.

Amoroso based his ruling on alleged financial irregularities from the National Assembly President, claiming that he has held 91 unauthorised foreign trips worth US $160,000 which “no public servant salary can justify.” He also ordered the tax agency to investigate all of Guaido’s expenses.

“We presume that he falsified data in his [wealth] declaration and [illegally] received money from international bodies,” the Ombudsman went on to state.

He also pointed to Guaido’s political dealings with foreign governments, stating that “He has usurped his public functions and committed actions with foreign governments which harm the Venezuelan people,” both of which are punishable under Venezuelan law. Venezuela’s Attorney General has also opened two criminal investigations against the opposition leader for his actions, with his assets being frozen.

Guaido dismissed the ruling on Thursday, claiming that the Ombudsman and the National Constituent Assembly, which nominated him, “do not exist.” The opposition leader offered the comments during a meeting to present the plans for the electrical sector contained in the opposition’s “Plan Pais.” This plan contains the opposition’s vision for the country, including plans to “open up” the oil industry and the public sector to private investment.

Before the ruling, Guaido, who has the backing of Washington and a number of other allied governments, had called on his followers to take to the streets this Saturday to protest against the recent blackout. President Nicolas Maduro has also convened a march for the same day.

Maduro accuses Washington of being behind the power outage which left most parts of the country without electricity, some for as long as four days, for the second time this month, stating that it was caused by a “sniper” causing an explosion in a transformer at the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Center (Guri Dam) switchyard in Bolivar State. “We have the bullets and we are working out the calibre and who is responsible,” he stated.

“The attack was carried out with a rifle from an elevated area (...) the person who did it was a mercenary sent by the coup mongering opposition. US imperialism is behind this without a doubt,” Maduro told the nation via a telephone contact with popular Chavista TV program ‘Con el Mazo Dando’ Wednesday.

As engineers work to repair the damage from the fire at the dam, which caused the widespread blackout, Maduro announced that his government is to implement “electrical charge administration” measures.

While no details were offered on the nature of the electricity rationing, Maduro did explain that the damage caused by the fire is “greater than any Venezuelan can imagine” and that the measure would last “some days.”

Electrical supply has been gradually restored to nearly all of the country at the time of writing, with parts of the western states of Merida, Tachira, and Zulia finally getting power back Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, engineers from a range of state run industries have joined forces with state electricity company CORPOELEC workers in Bolivar State to repair the fire damage. From the Guri Dam, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez explained that workers from oil corporation PDVSA, steel corporation SIDOR and basic industries umbrella corporation the CVG were all present.

“The work continues without interruption since yesterday to recover the transformers in the transmission patio of Guri, destroyed as they were at he hands of the criminal right which follows instructions from [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, [US National Security Advisor John] Bolton and [Florida Republican Senator Marco] Rubio. Together with Nicolas Maduro Venezuela will be victorious,” she tweeted Wednesday.

Classes and most labour activities were suspended once more on Thursday as efforts to restore power to isolated communities and to stabilise the grid continue. Public transport systems are also not operating, with the Caracas Metro system putting on a number of overland buses to compensate.

Other state-run entities, like PDVSA, continue to carry out contingency plans to provide electricity and water services to hospitals, with elements of the police and armed forces mobilised to assist.

Health Minister Carlos Alvarado offered an evaluation Wednesday concerning the performance of the national health system during the blackout, stating that no deaths had been reported as a result of the lack of electricity.

“Currently there is a ministerial team deployed across the country supervising the health centers and verifying the distribution of water and combustible for the electrical power plants,” he told reporters Wednesday.

For its part, NGO Doctors for Health countered these claims, reporting three deaths as of Wednesday night. These reported deaths are yet to be confirmed. The power outage in early March reportedly resulted in 24 deaths.

CORPOELEC workers have also been reported as holding a number of assemblies across the country to elaborate a series of proposals on how to safeguard the national grid.

Russia speaks out

Moscow has also weighed in regarding the electrical blackout in Venezuela, backing Maduro’s accusations that it was caused by “sabotage” aimed at provoking “chaos, for the dissolution of the state, of which there can be no winners.”

The statement from the Russian government follows comments from US President Donald Trump Wednesday, in which he told Russia to “get out” of Venezuela following the arrival of General Vasily Tonkoshkurov and 100 servicemen to Caracas last week, reportedly to fulfill existing technical and military cooperation contracts.

Russian Foreign Office Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told press that her country does not look “to change the balance of power in the region… [or] threaten anyone or carry out acts of sabotage,” pointing to what Moscow terms as regime change efforts in Caracas.

Zakharova also described Trump’s comments as “An arrogant intent to dictate how two sovereign nations build relations,” adding that “neither Russia nor Venezuela are provinces of the USA.”

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