Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Apocalypto Caracazu Titanicos

It is difficult to truly understand what a major power outage is unless you have experienced it in Caracas, at 2 PM, in a working day.

I have been for a week in Caracas and the outage caught me as I was seeking my car in a garage. Luckily for me I was on the first basement so there was still some daylight coming through the ramp exits, because the emergency lights were not working. Had the outage caught me in the second basement I would have been totally in the dark, at the mercy of a car driving around to find my own one. Amen of the risk of bumping into something.... Of course, it was impossible to pay my fee since the cash register had no back up power. I could leave without paying but only after a 20 minutes wait until they managed to manually open the gates.

But finding the light of day was not much comfort. With the death of traffic lights gridlock was fast becoming a chaos.  On my way back home I learned that there was no power at work so I went straight home, ate a yogurt since there was no light there to warm up anything, and on to nap time. And that was the end of the good part of the day. Eventually at 2PM power came back home and the whiz of the refrigerator starting woke me up. On my way to work I was informed that the power had not got back there yet. So I decided to hit a hardware store for a quick errand (to replace a water heater that went bust at home in San Felipe after a power outage, oh! the irony!).  That turned out to be a big mistake.

I was trapped in demential traffic to reach EPA (the said store). But unable to make a U-turn anywhere I went to the store anyway which luckily had its own generation. So I did my errand though I lost my parking ticket which forced me to pay full price, no mercy even with my hefty purchase. But I digress. The real problem was escaping that store....  By then the shutting down of the subway combined to the lack of traffic lights, the idiocy of the drivers trying to go though a blocked intersection even though they could see it was impossible and the rare incompetent traffic police placed where it mattered the least made me think that were Dante to come back alive he would add a new hell to his tales.

It goes beyond description to be tied up in the Avenida Francisco de Miranda, a main Caracas drag, with the cars staggered haphazardly, blocking all, the cops directing traffic inside the Miranda instead of outside, the huge, gigantic lines, of people vomited from the out of service subway, trying to make triple and quadruple lines on the side walk to wait for a bus, when not walking back home in despair between the cars as the sidewalks were chockfull....  Even the late return of the light did not help, all was hopelessly tied up.  Half of the stores were closed, by the way, even as electricity started coming back little by little. Without security, as soon as lights go out stores close and if after a while light does not come back, they simply roll down their shutters and go home. In downtown areas, the shutting down is even faster than in the Eastern part of town.  And do not let me start on the abusive motorbikes trying to force their way through traffic anyway.....

It goes without saying that many health services must have cut down or shut altogether; that any fire would have burnt happily as there is no way a firetruck could have taken less than 15 minutes to cross the Miranda, amen of making its way to the fire; that after a while cash machines would have gone dead; that you could not even go to some joint to have a cup of coffee to wait it out as the expresso machines would be cold.

You get the picture......... For me it was a total eyeopener. See, in San Felipe where we are subjected to constant power outages we do not suffer the massive collapse that Caracas experiences. There is no subway, streets are much less congested than Caracas, and thus usually we wait for an hour or two or if by 3 PM power has not returned I close office for the rest of the day. It is more annoying, but much less expensive than a day of production lost, when the outages are at home at dinner time because unless you do not have a good rechargeable flash light you cannot even read. These days outages are rarely less than 2 hours, and happen at least on a weekly basis though Yaracuy is a rather spared state.  But the apocalypse I lived through yesterday was something that I was truly unprepared for, something that made me ponder what will happen when the next Caracazo comes our way, anytime soon the way things are. Caracas today is a town much more exacerbated than it was in 1989 and a major power outage at rush time (this one was NOT at rush hour) could trigger a major upheaval, looting and the like.


This is kind of a two posts deal. Below the official reactions and my explanations.

For this I only need to put up the Maduro tweets and my comments.

"I am at the forefront of the situation that strangely and abruptly has happened in the electrical service, we will keep informing and attentive...." The writing is much worse in Spanish than my translation that I cannot make as bad as the tweet (note: I do not think "president" Maduro does his tweets, but he signs them, so fair game).
"I have ordered the army to monitor the States. I ask top collaboration, we are bringing things back to normal progressively". Beyond the bad writing Maduro let's escape his concern that such a vast power outage, as much as 70% of the country according to reports, could bring trouble.  In short, he knows that he is not really controlling the country.

"At this time all seems to indicate that the extreme right has retaken its plan of an Electric Coup against the country. [Being] Alert and Active we shall Win" Of course, he had to come up with an explanation that hides the dramatic incompetence and corruption that has lead the country to that situation. He has none so this means the blame has to put on somebody else. The "extreme right" is a castro-chavista construct which like the constant assassination attempts against Chavez Maduro and Cabello are all talk, no meat. Since 2010 when sabotage accusations have been launched by Chavez to explain a never ending electrical crisis, there has been no one duly processed, judged, condemned and jailed.  The rare individuals that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and got arrested were quietly released later on.
"It is obvious that the hand of those who want to weaken the fatherland is behind [the outage], let's keep the way of work and prosperity. Unity and Advance" Yes again, it makes as little sense in Spanish as my English....  And no solid evidence for that to this time. And Maduro types/has-typed this as Jesse Chacon tries to report on the power outage in a normal professional way, for a change.  Which proves to you that there is no good coordination inside the regime except for looting the country and stealing elections.

Unfortunately the timing is terrible for Maduro. After a now three years "electricity emergency" we are finding out that the national grid still does not work, that we cannot serve adequately the country and thus cannot even think of reactivating production.......  at a time when scarcity of food and medicine and other keeps on and on.

What has happened is that Chavez nationalization mania, ineptitude and need to send resources to his allies rather than his people have made the country fail in its necessary investment to keep up the existing infrastructure. Chavez in his ignorance thought that maintenance was some form of bourgeois concept that could be done with by the bolibanana revolution. Now, that we have less money and more to repair, the chickens are coming back home to roost.

But that is not all. The "electric emergency" decreed in 2010 by an ever executive but ignorant Chavez has turned out to be a boon for corruption. Scandal after scandal is being uncovered recently, one of the main ones related to a company called Derwick Associates.  So far it seems that through Derwick we can trace at least 2.93 BILLIONS of USD in over-billing for electrical supplies that are not even installed or came deficient or used, or inadequate or.......  What will be our final corruption bill by the time outages stop, if ever?

What we saw yesterday is yet more hard evidence of a country crumbling down and a regime that neither has ideas to fix it or the will to do so. Sometimes I wonder what Maduro is, besides a fraudulent president in more ways than a mere electoral fraud. Is he the captain of the Titanic, or a first class passenger trying to find a place in a life boat or the band playing?


  1. Island Canuck5:46 PM

    The head of the electricians union delares that it was lack of maintenance that caused the collapse in the system.

    Señaló que la dirigencia sindical de Fetraelec “tiene meses advirtiendo” la falta de atención en esta línea. “No son los trabajadores los saboteadores ni responsables de lo que pasó el día de ayer”.
    Agregó que los “verdaderos responsables” son las autoridades que toman las decisiones para invertir y mantener el sistema eléctrico del país.

  2. Daniel how much do you pay for your electricity?

    1. Something between nothing and peanuts. But I pay something at least which is more than can be said for about half the country.

  3. Anonymous10:32 PM

    The sad part is the people are so stupid that actually believe the shit that Maduro says. He will be there die the next 20 years at this rate.

  4. Anonymous7:42 AM

    The relevant question may be does the public want free electricity or stable electricity? Take the corruption and incompetence out of the picture, and start charging more for electric service while investing the additional charges to restore the stability of the system. The public has no problem shelling out premium charges for cell phone or DirecTV. Fuel and electricity should not be off limits to price increases to maintain production or stability. Only in such a politically insecure environment could these subsidies continue.


    1. have to fix the system first to guarantee service to justify the premium.

    2. kernel_panic10:46 PM

      Chiabe yo bote pol ti ahola tu tiene que dalme lo mio!

      As long as the people refuse to be accountable for their actions the short answer is they want free electricity, it's your problem if they don't get it, not yours.

  5. Anonymous9:34 AM

    Where do you start when so much is in disarray? Electricity, water, highway infrastructure, hospitals, food shortages, spare part shortages, construction, currency exchange systems and on and on.
    And there is of course no money to take on any real major project(s).

    1. Anonymous3:26 PM

      What do you mean "there is of course no money to take on any real major project(s)"?

      Palestinians will be receiving oil at a "fair" price from Venezuela to keep their electric generating equipment going.

      Syrians are receiving oil products to keep their machinery running.

      Billions of dollars in oil is given to the Castros to assure that they continue their services.

      Russian weapons are being purchased to assure Maduro that he can continue as the illegitimate leader of Venezuela. Multitudes of Hugo Chavez statues are being commissioned.

      Electricity to El Pueblo is way down the list.

    2. NorskeDiv11:11 PM

      Venezuela handing diesel fuel out left and right to keep foreign electrical generators going strikes me as particularly cruel.

      What happens when the day - we all know it is coming - comes that Venezuela cuts off all the cut price oil? Venezuela is making millions of people dependent on something that cannot possibly last. Economically it makes almost no sense to use diesel to create electricity. If Caribbean countries all paid the real price for diesel they would be more quickly moving towards alternatives. Instead of planning for that they will abruptly have to deal with reality at some point in the future.


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