Mérida, October 22, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– An "erroneous adjustment of the security system" in Venezuela's electricity grid caused a power outage in 11 of Venezuela's 23 states on Sunday, from 10:40 in the morning until the evening, according to the president of the National Electricity Corporation (CORPOELEC), Hipólito Izquierdo.
The government immediately appointed an investigative commission made up of two federal attorneys and functionaries from the national Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP) and the Criminal, Scientific, and Penal Investigation Corps (CICPC) to inspect the faulty facilities and determine that cause of the outage.
Izquierdo told the press Monday that the error occurred in a power generator in southeastern Bolívar state near the Guri Dam, which produces more than 70% of the nation's hydroelectricity for the central and western regions of the country.
The Venezuelan Public Ministry announced Monday that it will impute three technicians from the regional electricity company near the Guri dam, EDELCA, with possible infractions of the Law Against Information Crimes and the Penal Code.
"The technicians who made the adjustments, apparently because of an error in their calculations, a human error or for some other reason – we are not discarding any hypothesis – adjusted the system in such a manner so that it acted automatically…This is a rare system failure and we are not dismissing the idea that it could have been sabotage," said Izquierdo.
A leader from the opposition party Acción Democrática (AD), Víctor Bolívar, said the power outage is a sign of "the government's own incompetence, that it is not resolving problems because of their own incapacity."
In 2007, the Venezuelan government nationalized the country's electricity sector and brought the regional electricity companies under the management of CORPOELEC.
Sunday's outage affected the states of Miranda, Aragua, Carabobo, Lara, Mérida, Guárico, Cojedes, Táchira, Vargas, Zulia, and the Capital District. It was the third large scale electricity outage in the past six months.
Last April, a forest fire near the Guri Dam triggered the automatic shutdown of a generator, cutting off electricity to 17 states for a day. In September, a sharp increase in consumption activated the security systems in some generators, causing sporadic power outages across the country.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez praised the efficiency with which CORPOELEC responded to the problem Sunday. "Within 15 minutes not only had they detected the origin of the electricity failure, but they had begun to recuperate the system," he said.
The Communist Party of Venezuela and another leftist party Patria Para Todos called on the government to investigate the possibility of "counter-revolutionary" sabotage of the electricity system, and to prepare for a possible sabotage of the upcoming regional and local elections.
In a statement Monday, the National Electoral Council assured that the voting machines that will be used in the elections this November 23rd are equipped with backup batteries and will continue to function normally in the case of an electricity outage.
As a result of the power outage Sunday, the subway system in Caracas was shut down for the day, but no other major incidents, traffic jams, or emergencies were reported, partly because Sunday is a relatively calm day of rest for many Venezuelans, according to government officials in several regions of the country.