Venezuelan authorities Tuesday charged an employee of state-run electricity company Corpoelec with sabotage, saying the act led to a major electricity failure across several states in May.
In a statement, the Attorney General’s ofﬁce said it charged Luis Alfonzo Pena Nanez for his role in the power outage. The ministry also said it would charge another worker, Hugo Alberto Aguilar Caceres, this Friday.
Under state law, the accused could face four to eight years in prison.
As the oil-rich South American country struggles with widespread power shortages this year, top Venezuelan ofﬁcials have frequently blamed the problems on sabotage as well as policies implemented by governments before President Hugo Chavez.
Critics say the country’s power troubles instead stem from rigid state control over the sector, mismanagement and lack of investment.
Venezuelan ofﬁcials said that Pena and Aguilar were in charge of monitoring the ﬂow of electricity through high-tension transmission lines. “Both failed to perform the necessary maneuvers to prevent a failure of the lines”, the Attorney General’s ofﬁce said in the statement.
The May 9th interruption in two transmission lines caused a blackout across at least 10 states and the tourism hotspot of Margarita Island.
The announcement came on the same day that Argenis Chavez, a younger brother of the President, was named as the new vice minister of electricity development, according to the Ofﬁcial Gazette.
Speaking on local news channel Globovision, the vice minister said he expected Venezuela’s electricity shortage to last until December as demand in the country was close to reaching 18,000 megawatts.
The electricity problems are likely to become a key political issue as President Chavez lines up a reelection bid next year.
On Monday, authorities announced a new set of electricity-saving measures including penalties for customers who fail to conserve power.
The government’s most recent restrictions were prompted in part by power failures over the weekend in the heavily populated and oil-rich state of Zulia, among several western states.