Venezuela in the Dark: A Chronicle of Sabotage

Marco Teruggi
Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator, was one of the first to announce the blackout, for which he blamed the “Maduro regime,” and stated something that only those involved in the sabotage operation could know.

At 5 p.m. on Thursday, February 7, almost the entire country was in darkness. Electricity was cut in 22 of the 24 states, resulting in outages of many telephone and transportation communications. The first report from the government was the Minister of Electricity, Motta Domínguez, who denounced an attack on the generation and transmission unit in Bolívar, specifically in the Guri, the backbone of the electrical system.

Then, the Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez, announced that “the criminal intention was to subject the people of Venezuela to several days without electricity supply in order to attack and mistreat them”. President Nicolás Maduro, for his part, focused his responsibility on the electric war which had been announced and led by U.S. imperialism. The darkness was total on Thursday night in Caracas, with some candles, phones with batteries, generators, stars, the streets in total silence.

At dawn on Friday, Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez declared a non-working and non-school day. The country awoke in uncertainty, in the neighborhoods of Caracas people went out early to look for ways to reach their commitments, to stop at the door of their homes to talk among neighbors to gather available information, few people had telephone service to receive messages. Almost all shops were closed, and Plaza Bolívar, meanwhile, became a rendezvous point for information seekers.

The reaction of the national and international right was very different from the beginning. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was one of the first to announce the blackout, for which he blamed the “Maduro regime,” and pointed out something that only those involved in the sabotage operation could know: that the backup generators had failed. Juan Guaidó, for his part, wrote that ” it is clear to Venezuela that light will come with the cessation of usurpation,” and the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, affirmed: “There is no food, no medicine, now there is no electricity, next, there will be no Maduro”.

The data provided by Rubio was what Jorge Rodriguez highlighted to demonstrate how it was a planned operation as part of the ongoing attacks in the overthrow strategy. The minister spoke in the evening hours of Friday, when the electricity system was being re-established and was once again proceeding by zones, both nationally and in Caracas.

According to the information provided, it was a cyber attack on the automated control system of the hydroelectric plant, which effectively prevented the backup generators from working. The Guri, according to the minister, generates most of the electricity the country needs.

It is not the first time that acts of sabotage to the electrical installations have occurred. However, it is the first time that it has happened in such dimensions, and at the same time, within a context of such political violence, where the possibility of acts of sabotage was anticipated as part of the assaults to weaken and create a scenario of chaos that the right wing is striving to impose.

Friday night was a night of restoration of service, where, with the passing hours, the system was stabilized. One of the central elements which emerged from the days of sabotage was the response of the population, who were calm and prudent in their manner.

Saturday the 9th was marked by the mobilizations of the right wing and Chavismo, in a climate of instability, where it has been shown that the right wing strategy is capable of resorting to criminal actions such as leaving a country without light, with all the consequences that entails.

Electrical and Political Uncertainty in Venezuela

It can be anticipated that sabotage will continue and expand, as Guaidó announced during Saturday’s event: “We must announce responsibly that it will turn into a gasoline crisis.

Friday night brought some tranquility to Venezuela. Electricity returned in 70% of the country after more than 24 hours of interruption. In each home the same actions of connecting refrigerators, telephones, communications, opening faucets so that water flows from the electric pumps were repeated. In the morning the queues multiplied to buy food that, under the impact of hyperinflation, exceeds the amounts of money available in effect.

Guaidó, who spoke with a megaphone, announced that he will call for a new mobilization in Caracas, which he did not set a date for. “We have to go to the seizure and conquest of power, of spaces (…) we must unite to come all together, so that all of Venezuela comes to Caracas. They want to demobilize us, it depends on us”.

Guaidó’s effect among his followers was one of receptivity. The tension was generated with the request of “intervention” of those who were there, and Guaidó’s answer without forcefulness on the matter, who affirmed that they could appeal to article 187 of the Constitution, that is to say the one that would open doors to an intervention, “when the moment arrives”. The demand has been installed with force in sectors of the right since last February 23, the day on which they were not able to bring in the trucks with humanitarian aid.

Not only the bases of the right are asking for intervention. Some leaders, like Antonio Ledezma, also. “Come on pdte. @jguaido formally requests humanitarian intervention,” tweet before the mobilization.

Nicolás Maduro spoke a little later in front of the Miraflores Palace. He reported on the chronology of the five attacks, both physical attacks on generation stations, electromagnetic attacks on transmission networks, and cyber attacks on the automated control system. He claimed that the 70% that had been restored on Friday night was again damaged on Saturday at noon. He focused the responsibilities on the strategy of attack on the electrical system designed by the United States, the internal right, in complicity with what he called “infiltrators in the company”.

Movements were conducted in a city with tranquillity, with attempts to communicate between families, and concern about a possible next night in the dark with all its consequences. No incidents have been reported in the streets after two days of the start of the #MegaApagon -as featured on Twitter- and it is not surprising to presume that one of the intended effects of the attack is precisely to drive the population into the streets to protest. Some parts of the country have not had service restored since Thursday.

There has been a struggle to re-establish and stabilize the electrical system -which had previously presented difficulties in different parts of Venezuela- to reduce the chain of damage caused by the prolonged national outage. It can be expected that sabotage will continue and expand, as Guaidó announced during Saturday’s event: “We must announce in advance that it will turn into a gasoline crisis”.

The end of the afternoon brought uncertainty regarding the future. The right did not specify dates of mobilization, and it seems clear that the strategy of prolonged attrition is a strategy that they intend to use for their purposes: it generates distress, uncertainty, chaos, and exposes the opposition to the same thing.

Deny responsibility for the events. In this way, one of the axes of the struggle is centred around the interpretation of events. The days have become a time of tension between the return of light and the blackouts, the necessary normalization in the face of an unprecedented siege that forces a country to resist.