Mérida, April 5th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Interim President Nicolas Maduro yesterday ordered the Venezuelan military to protect power plants against what he claimed are attempts to sabotage Venezuela’s electricity system ahead of next week’s presidential election.
The move was ordered in a meeting with government ministers, military commanders and electricity board authorities, following a set of power outages in Caracas and Aragua state on Wednesday considered to be suspicious.
Maduro claimed the blackouts were part of an “electricity” and “economic war” by sectors of the opposition against the government in the run-up to the 14 April election, when Maduro will stand against conservative rival Henrique Capriles.
Maduro further claimed the issue to be one of “national security”. The Venezuelan prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the blackouts shortly after Maduro’s pronouncements.
There has been an increase in power outages in Aragua state in recent weeks. Yesterday morning, authorities of the state-run National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec) found eleven burned transformers throughout the state. The head of Corpoelec in Aragua state, Antonio Lucas, has been dismissed.
The Corpoelec national president, Argenis Chavez, also argued yesterday that the recent spate of blackouts were due to attempted sabotage.
Referring to a recent power cut during a Maduro campaign event, he said, “There’s nothing to indicate that there was a [conventional] failure, its sabotage”.
“It’s not a secret to anyone that inside the structure of the electrical system there are [harmful] elements: thank God every day there are less workers who answer the right-wing call to commit sabotage; but there is internal and external sabotage,” he said in an interview with public channel VTV.
Argenis Chavez, who is late President Hugo Chavez’s brother, added that the number of blackouts in Venezuela also increased before the presidential election last October, suggesting a political motive behind presumed attacks against Venezuela’s electrical system.
Nevertheless, the Corpoelec president argued that authorities had strengthened measures to protect the electrical system in the run-up to the election, and that “on 14 April, the national electrical system will function perfectly”.
Partly due to falling poverty and rising consumer spending power, electricity consumption has risen sharply in Venezuela over the previous decade. The government claims to have increased production above demand – 20,000 megawatts produced to 19,000 megawatts consumed – however concedes that problems in transmission sometimes lead to sporadic outages in some parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition blamed the recent power outages on a lack of government planning and investment.
“The government is responsible for the chaos in the electricity sector,” said Winston Cabas, an electricity spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition.
“They’ve had enough time to optimise it yet every day more failures and interruptions are reported, and now they want to blame it on the opposition,” he said in comments to conservative daily El Universal.
In his interview yesterday, Argenis Chavez defended the government’s investment record in the electricity system since it was nationalised in 2007. He also reported that since taking on the temporary presidency last month, Maduro has approved $5 billion bolivars and US $700 million to continue expanding the national electricity system.