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News > Venezuela

What's Behind US-Backed Electricity Blackout in Venezuela

  • People gather at a park during the blackout in Caracas, Venezuela, March 7, 2019.

    People gather at a park during the blackout in Caracas, Venezuela, March 7, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 March 2019

More than 70 percent of the Venezuelan territory was affected by sabotage to the country's electrical system.

An ongoing series of cyber attacks were perpetrated starting Thursday against the El Guri hydroelectric plant control system leaving the Venezuelan population without electricity for now almost 96 hours. According to the Venezuelan government, this nation-wide blackout was brought about by foreign-backed actions aimed at destabilizing the government President Nicolas Maduro, who stressed that the aggression "affected everyone equally without political distinction."

Venezuela Denounces US Participation in Electric Sabotage

What caused the country-wide blackout?

The automatized control system of the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, which is popularly known as El Guri, was attacked. Inside this high-tech power plant, three of five backup generators were electronically sabotaged, Jorge Rodriguez, Sector Vice President of Communication, Tourism and Culture, revealed in a statement explained th details of the reasons behind the attack.

Who was involved in the attack?

The sabotage was intended to leave Venezuela without light for several days, according to Rodriguez. He said that Marco Rubio, U.S. Republican Senator from Florida, who has been actively seeking to destabilize the Bolivarian government, is one of the promoters of the attack.

According to the Venezuelan communication minister, U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo and opposition deputy Juan Guaido were also implicated in the attack.

"The electric war announced and directed by U.S. imperialism against our people will be defeated," President Maduro posted on his Twitter account and added "nothing and no one will be able to defeat the people of Bolivar and Chavez. Maximum unity of the patriots!".

On Saturday, Forbes contributor Kalev Leetaru wrote in an op-ed article that based on both history and the stated intentions of foreign entities the “widespread power and connectivity outages like the one Venezuela experienced last week are straight from the modern cyber playbook.”

How was the Guri Plant attacked?

The power plant automatized control system was “attacked cybernetically”, Rodriguez said and explained that the security protocols made machines stop as the power plant was under attack.

The Guri facility’s electronic brain regulates 20 hydroelectric machines by taking into account voltage variations, which are used to increase or decrease the working of the whole system.

What was the government's first response?

The government immediately implemented actions to restore the service in the affected areas of the country. To guarantee the citizens’ transfer to the localities closest to their homes, public transport was offered by the government.

Meanwhile, portable electric plants were issued to hospitals and clinics to ensure the well-being of the patients, as Governor of the State of Miranda Hector Rodriguez stated on his Twitter account.

Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez clarified on Friday that reports circulating that 79 people died in hospitals due to a power failure were false.

Thousands of people marched in Caracas in support of the Government of Nicolas Maduro and against US interference. | Photo: teleSUR

What did the Venezuelan population do?

Faced with this aggression, President Nicolas Maduro suspended work hours and school activities on Friday, March 8. The Venezuelan population remained calm mostly at home or gathered at plazas and parks and carried on their daily activities. 

In Caracas, despite the fact that the blackout affected the subway, many whose working hours were not suspended came to their workplaces either walking or using other transportation methods.

This unexpected citizen reaction demonstrated the population’s resilience amidst "the most brutal aggression to which the Venezuelan people have been subjected in 200 years," Rodriguez argued.

From his Twitter account, Maduro also displayed his admiration "of the Venezuelan people who resist with courage this new attack of the enemies of the Homeland".

While on March 9, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets Saturday to march against interventionism in the country, as part of the celebrations of the national Bolivarian Anti-imperialist Day.

As crowds carrying messages of support gathered in plaza beneath Palace of Miraflores,  high ranking authorities received them, such as Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who congratulated the people for their resistance in the hours after the blackout.

"This is a country that resists and that is why we are going to get out of all difficulties!" assured Arreaza, while calling for unity and support for President Maduro.

What is the situation at the moment?

As of Sunday, electricity service in Caracas and the rest of the country begins to recover gradually. Users have reported on social media that between 04:50 am (local time) and 06:05 am (local time), electricity came back in  San Martin, La Florida, La Urbina, El Marqués, Petare, Los Dos Caminos, La Pastora, Los Ruices, Macaracuay, Chacaíto, and Bello Monte, as well as localities located in the municipalities of Libertador, Baruta, and Sucre.

The mayor of Caracas, Erika Farias, said to teleSUR on Sunday that, in the face of continued electrical sabotage, the "people have responded with peace and will remain in peace." No acts of violence have been recorded as a result of the prolonged power outage.

Farias reassured that “the Government is working to restore permanently the right to electricity, we are confident that it will be in the next few hours.” While explaining that authorities are deployed in response to the different contingencies in the capital city, guaranteeing the supply of water and food with priority for the network of public hospitals.

On Sunday night, Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez informed the population that all school and business activities on Monday are suspended amid the restoring of the national electrical system.

We will have more information as the electricity supply is normalized throughout the country.

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