Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blackout!

Yesterday we were subjected to a preview? reminder? of the consequences of an "everything" state regime. There was a major blackout that covered more than 50% of the country and which lasted several hours, some areas like San Felipe for over 4 hours according to my digital clocks. The official reason? Some problem at Guri dam which compounded with excessive temperatures in the country, a surge in consumption, combined with forest fires resulted in some local surge that melted down something and for safety reasons the whole central system was shut down until it could be fixed.

This might all be true or all be false, we will never know probably because by the time the folks in charge are finally audited, nobody will care anymore. We can at least be happy that the VTV first reaction claiming that it was a sabotage from the Empire or some other nonsense was not taken up when the ministers in charge finally talked to the country. But at least we could appreciate how trigger ready has become a chavismo now on the defensive. However there is one thing we know for sure: the largest share of the blame is due to governmental incompetence and political shenanigans.

Incompetence: ever since my return to Venezuela I have been hearing specialists, even from pre Chavez era, saying that there is not enough investments in the electric grid and generating plants and if that situation keeps going on, major blackouts will become the norm. In fact in some areas of the country today electricity is all but officially rationed. Here in San Felipe we now get at least a monthly blackout. They are not as long as the one we suffered yesterday but in the last 8 years they have tended to increase in frequency and length. At work we have been forced to buy very expensive surge protectors and heavy substitute battery systems for all sensitive equipment so that when a black out comes we have enough time to do a proper shut down. Even at home I have all on power surge protector and my computer with such a battery system which allows me 10 minutes to save all work and shut down. Needless to say that I have all sorts of candles ready to go as necessary.

But chavismo cannot be bothered with that: they had no problem spending billions for effect in buying Electricidad de Caracas early 2007, the private utility that had the best electrical system in Venezuela. There was no need for Chavez to order that purchase when he already controlled how much could the electrical rates increase in Caracas. The objective was strictly political. And of course the billions given to the share holders of EA&S left Venezuela, were not reinvested at home... How much improvement to the electrical grid of Venezuela with those billion sunk at EA&S?

But to add insult to injury YESTERDAY Venezuela has announced the shipment of an extra 50 000 oil barrels to Nicaragua to "alleviate" the energy crisis over there. A perfect example of the old saying "luz en la calle, oscuridad en al casa" light outside, darkness at home. The mockery continues....

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, which of the nationalized industries will be prettier?"

PD: of course the country was in total chaos as numerous press reports can attest. I happened to be in Barquisimeto and was stuck at Las Trinitarias where I was buying supplies for work at a famous hardware store, EPA. Since all cash registers are electric, a SENIAT obligation, there was only one of the exits that was open to leave the parking. The line was so huge that I went back inside the mall to loiter. Loitering was the only thing you could do anyway as no cash register was working. Finally when I left I had to face the Barquisimeto chaos (no traffic lights working) since I had to do another errand next to the Cathedral. I can hardly imagine the Caracas situation with the subway down at peak hours! Ah, and by the way, some areas of the country were totally cut of since some cel phone centers were out of commission. Half of my phone calls could not even hook.

-The end-

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