What drives the blackouts?

f680cbfb-85f4-4237-bb28-9eab607b2c72In case you missed it, there was another nationwide blackout eleven days ago which caught Nicolas Maduro offguard right in the middle of a cadena broadcast. This new failure in the power grid wasn’t the only problem recently: the people of Maturin lost all electricity for almost an entire week thanks to “hurricane-like winds” that took out six towers. Earlier, Barcelona went through the same thing for at least two days. And even Caracas is getting more used to power failures.

As the electrical crisis intensifies, some experts have now warned that the situation could get even worse in the upcoming months because of the weather phenomenon known as “El Niño”.

Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon tried to assuage fears by assuring State newspaper Correo del Orinoco that they’re prepared for what’s coming…

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Sadly for him, this interview came hours before the third major blackout in a year, so… it didn’t help him much.

This blackout has triggered a bigger problem for the Electricity Minister: The workers of CORPOELEC (both pro-government and pro-opposition) have just about had enough: They have declared themselves in state of emergency because of the lack of safety and unpaid work benefits. They’re also demanding Chacón be sacked from his post.

If you are a frequent reader of CC, you may have noticed that the electrical crisis is one of the most frequent themes I write about. After years and years, it seems the overall picture is getting worse, and as friend of the blog Daniel Lansberg Rodriguez wrote recently for The Daily Beast, the government is simply running out of culprits to blame (from excessive demand to opposition sabotage to hurricanes to wild animals). This recent blackout has put the ongoing electrical crisis in a brand new light.

28 thoughts on “What drives the blackouts?

  1. Amongst blue-collar workers, world-wide, electrical workers are among the most educated and most responsible. In fact, they are often derided as being arrogant and elitist by other tradesmen. Even if you were not already prepared to believe it, when the Corpolec workers themselves are declaring an emergency, you should know that the situation is dire.


    • That’s because a mistake of them means explosions and third-degree internal burns. Aka likely death.


    • Their thechnicians might be all fine, but their customer service employees? Boy, what I’ve heard throught those phone lines…
      Let’s leave it in that some weeks ago, in a nasty blackout in the middle of the night, I actually made one of those cry after I threatened to report him to the infamous sapeo-line 0800 sabotaje.
      I try my best to keep a cool head with customer service employees, but some of them are just assholes, one friend of mine a couple of years ago was about to look for the guy on the local corpoelec’s office to beat the crap off the employee because he was mocking the people due to that day’s blackout.
      When your customer service actually MOCKS and taunts the customers, well, that might explain a bit why the people in that town killed a couple of workers some time ago…


  2. Here on Guayana, where like 80% of the electricity of the country comes from, you get the easy version: There’s almost zero investment on maintenance.

    The iguana incident? A private contractor is supposed to weed out the substations (where raw hydroelectrical energy is transformed into energy apt for consumption), but the revolution HATES paying their debts to private contractors, so is left alone until the weed grows unmanageable and the animals damage the equipment. Of course, if the regular workers do it themselves on the “voluntary work shifts”, they earn promotions, in yet another form of ball sucking for a position.

    A more dramatic form of that is the private contractors that deal with security. Some substation have nobody at night, since the operators aren’t staying at night with absolutely nobody else at the mercy of muggers. No job is worth that.

    On ministers, Chacón is a (small) improvement over Argenis Chávez, whose myth of the “sabotaging workers” got 2 workers shot dead by an angry crowd on a small town. The third lived because he was on the car and managed to get away.


    • Sadly, jessy “kill-a-parking lot-guard” is using that same “sabotaging fascist workers” as an excuse too.
      Which made those protesting employees to jerk back and start claiming at the top of their lungs that their protest wasn’t political at all.

      …I mean, because asking for the resignation of an incompetent minister while defending your rights isn’t some political cause, NO SIRE.

      People in Venezuela is just too used to think that “political” something is worthless.


  3. Hurricane force winds, damage to infrastructure, representative of the animal/insect kingdoms, and despite deployment of the military, still defeats them.

    I think we are overlooking the obvious source of the problem: Mothra.


      • With respect, I think you underestimate the deep reservoirs of latent nerdiness particular to the denizens of this blog. The signs are all there: the occasional LOTR references, a certain author’s collection of Star Wars “action figures”, a commenter’s usage of the Rebel Alliance symbol, references to that erotic art known as econometrics. Hell, a bit more of this and a dab more of that and you’d find yourself about 3 short steps from a Caracas Chronicles LARPing club.

        Curiously, the only thing I don’t see much of is Trekkie references. Given some of the passions and random feuds in the comments, you’d think a Vulcan/Pon Farr comment would be almost obvious.

        My wife tells me that while she was growing up in Venezuela, she saw her fair share of Norte Americano cartoons, but likewise, quite a bit of Japanimation cartoons that I, as a childhood cartoon connoisseur, had never heard of before in my life. I don’t think Mothra would necessarily be that far of a stretch.


    • LMAO! My sides! xDDDD

      Heh, that’s even better than the time one of their employees came with the bullshit that some vultures crashed in some lines causing the blackout.


  4. The power outage happened because of the world cup in Brazil. Power is been directed there by the empire which leave us without enough electricity.


  5. The ONLY problem with the venezuelan electrical grid is corruption, as with any major infrastructure system in venezuela, all investments have come to paralysis thanks to overpricing in the purchase of foreign equipment, mysterious dissapearance of approved funding and hiring of “technical” advising from Cuba wathever the hell that means.


    • Ah yeah, this is a country that basically gives away the electricity for free to most of it’s population.

      A complete anarchy of anybody sticking a cable to the line….no system is designed to support that. Not to mention all of the “vivos” that get themselves killed while doing that.

      Which leads to the moral of this country: The “vivos”, specially those that vote for the “revolution” and only get breadcrumbs, are the biggest suckers on the country.


      • I’m going go out on a limb and claim that the guys selling overpriced gear (like Derwick), the guys approving the purchase of overpriced gear, the authors of batshit crazy policies, the guys taking kickbacks and the guys who steal public money the old fasioned way; are sucking more money than the guys hooking up a wire from the power line to their shanty house.


      • Just to hammer the issue. CADIVI scams alone, have cost the country somewhere between 20 and 40 billion dollars. I doubt the losses caused by people hooking up wires from the power lines to their shanty houses is anywhere near that figure.


        • The problem with illegal connections is the same as those people that mess with water lines.
          There’s a huge amount of product that’s wasted there for free, you can’t ignore the illegal connections.
          Yes, I agree that overpriced equipments are partially guilty of this mess, but then you have even more moronic measures, such as enforcing higher tariffs to the few people that already pay (Which also is an agreement with that stupid whiny excuse that the “sifrinos” were using too much electricity for their “burguesito lifestyle”).
          I would pay with no problems if that meant a quality service, but not for this shit we have nowadays.

          “I doubt the losses caused by people hooking up wires from the power lines to their shanty houses is anywhere near that figure.”

          Again, I wouldn’t discard this without knowing how many illegal connections are out there (at least an approximation, then you can calculate how much money is wasted here), also, most of those who go and steal electricity aren’t poor folks doing it out of need, most of them are malandros who directly threat cortoelec’s employees and anybody who dares to say a peep about it.

          So, did they get fried while trying to steal volts? I would crack up with laughter there, because they were just “vivos”, like those who took this country to where it’s today.


          • ” I agree that overpriced equipments are partially guilty of this mess, but then you have even more moronic measures, such as enforcing higher tariffs to the few people that already pay”

            Higuer tariffs? My middle class mom pays a power bill of about VEF 20 (less than USD 0.30) a month because we don’t need ir conditioning there. My middle class girlfriend pays a power bill of about VEF 300 (less than USD 5) a month with several air conditioners, and electronic devices at her house. My mom spends more money by just getting a soda, and my girlfried spends more money just getting some sushi.

            For all practicall purposes, we’re all getting free electricity (it’s an expression, we pay for it with taxes on oil) in Venezuela. It’s just that a few of us pitch in to help corpoelect pay some of the wages. All the money CORPOELECT collects isn’t enough to pay wages, much less do maintenance or investment.

            Where are all those deaths by power line hookups? I doubt more than 50 people died of that cause in 2013. In contrast, 50 deaths is a good weekend in Caracas or Carabobo.

            I do agree that people hooking up their own wires is dangerous for them, dangerous for the infrastructure, dangerous for electric devices and hurts the economic viability of power utilities. I just don’t see it as THE power issue.

            The main issues are power bills are a joke so CORPOELECT can’t get enough money from users, it is run inneficiently (surpassing the standard for public companies), the Venezuelan treasury has too many expenses to pour in all the money needed to solve the mess, and the money they do put into it is being spent in overpriced gear, kickbacks and being stolen.


          • Pertty much. Sloppy connections overload the system and lead to explosions that lead to blackouts. Is not only about the money, though money for paying workers and new equipment has to come from somewhere.

            (The protests indicate that money is kind of not coming, so expect more blackouts).


            • I once read a statistic according to which transmission loses ( however caused ) are much larger in Venezuela than in other countries , maybe the result of unlawful hook ups but also of faulty operations and maintenance . Also came to know of a project to generate electricity from a gas producing field by an international company that fell flat because the govt entity that would distribute the electricity could not guarantee that people recieving it would pay for it nor that they could force them to make that payment !!

              This is a country were basic rules are either abused or cannot be enforced because people just dont pay attention to them and the govt entities are powerless to enforce them for political reasons.


      • Enforcing the tariff on the people that illegally stick a cable on a line will only increase the ammount of money that “dissapears”, that would be a second step to fix the system after you somehow get rid of the mafia that decides where the funds go, until you do that there’s simply no way to complete any sort of meaningful proyect


        • That I agree with. I disagree with the notion that SPECIALLY the poor vivos are responsible for this mess, ignoring the not-poor vivos like boliburgeses, bolichicos, and similar specimens.


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