The head of the largest private business organization in the country, FEDECAMARAS, said in a television interview earlier today that that the country’s electrical system operated better when it was in private hands. Speaking on Globovision‘s Primera Pagina, Franciso Martinez said:
[Private enterprise] does have the ability to plan an execute an electrical system. We demonstrated that from the 1950s until the year 2000, when it was handed over completely to the public sector. Public and private initiatives built the entire electrical system we have today with $48 billion. Since the day the it was made public, $95 billion have been invested in the electrical system, and these are the results. Water and electricity rationing.
Martinez pointed out that the frequent electrical disruptions the country experiences affect national production, along with the government’s erratic initiatives that try to curb energy consumption:
The electrical issue is beyond comprehension. One day, you [the government] force people out of their offices and send them home, where the consume electricity. Maybe you should have figured out how much [electricity] Venezuelans use at home versus how much they use at work to see where the real savings were (…) Venezuela executes [electrical plans] very poorly.
As to Minister of Electrical Energy Luis Motta Dominguez’s claim that El Niño and the prolonged drought associated with the weather pattern is to blame for the country’s electrical crisis, Martinez said:
This has nothing to do with El Niño, because other countries are suffering through the same phenomenon and they’re not going through these same electrical cuts…
Guri Plant Partially Shut Down for Maintenance
The Corporacion Electrica Nacional [National Electrical Corporation] (CORPOELEC) announced today that the Guri hydroelectric power plant was undergoing a scheduled partial shutdown in order to service four of its turbines.
According to CORPOELEC, the shutdown began on Friday evening.
Ultimas Noticias cites a source inside the Ministry of Electric Energy as saying that this is the first time that the turbines that belong to the Casa de Maquinas 1 has been shut down. The source also said that the turbines combined provide more than 2 thousand megawatts of electricity, and services mostly the west of the country.
CORPOELEC made its announcement using the hashtag #Noalamanipulacion [Roughly, “Say ‘no’ to manipulation], apparently in response to rumours on social media that the shutdown was unscheduled, or that it signified trouble for the plant.
On March 17, CORPOELEC measured the Guri dam’s water level at 246.52 meters above sea level. Jose Aguilar, the former vice-president of Electricidad de Caracas, told El Nacional last month that the dam’s turbines would begin to suffer damage were the water level dip to 244 meters above sea level, at which point electricity rationing would have to be so severe that there would be “unimaginable chaos”.
Gang Battle Leaves 9 Dead in Caracas
A gang battle involving as many as 150 individuals broke out in El Valle, in Caracas’ south-end on Sunday night. Nine people died during the battle, which lasted throughout the night into Monday morning.
According to El Nacional, gang members carrying automatic rifles clashed along the 19 de Abril street. The warring gangs are allegedly headed by individuals known to locals as “Loco Leo” and “Cabeza de Bruja”, who squared off against a rival gang headed by a man known as “Lucifer”.
According to residents, life in El Valle has become unbearable. The streets are so dangerous that residents abide by a strict curfew that spans from 5:00 PM every afternoon until dawn. A woman who lives on the street told El Nacional:
No one is safe. The devil has taken over Venezuela. The only people who can protect themselves are in the government.
Uribana Prison Mutiny Ends; 14 Officials Released
A mutiny at the Uribana prison in Lara state ended today after inmates released 14 hostages they had been holding since Friday. Initially, inmates took 18 officials from the Ministry of Penal Matters hostage, but gradually released them throughout the weekend, save for one who was killed yesterday. The inmates were demanding fundamental changes to the country’s penitentiary system, and said that they would defend themselves if authorities tried to storm the prison.
Earlier today, Minister of Penal Services Iris Valera announced that the last 14 hostages had been released. She also said that a government official from the ministry was under investigation for allegedly helping to smuggle weapons into the prison.
According to Valera, the inmates were well armed:
They had grenades, C4 and seven shotguns, standard issue for the guards.
Yesterday, one of the hostages was killed after an inmate detonated a grenade in the prison, possibly by mistake. The man who detonated the device was severely injured in the explosion and is currently receiving medial care.
Venezuelan prisons are notoriously porous, as drugs and weapons flow in and out of the institutions with relative ease.
Last month, a well-known prison inmate nicknamed El Conejo died, and inmates in Margartia state’s San Antonio prison mourned his death by discharging an impressive arsenal of weapons into the air from inside the prison:
Man Charged in Tumeremo Case
Authorities have formally charged Francisco David Carache Zambrano over his alleged role in the murder of at least 17 people near Tumeremo, Bolivar state on March 4. Authorities claim that Zambrano helped to perpetrate the murders, and aside from murder has been charged with kidnapping and theft.
Zambrano appeared before a judge earlier today, and was ordered to remain in custody until the start of his trial. He was arrested on March 18 in a hotel in Zulia state, in the opposite side of the country.
Zambrano is the latest name added to a list of individuals charged over their alleged roles in the Tumeremo massacre. The other individuals who have been charged to date are Rodolfo Andredy Castrillon Castro and Publio Evelio Martinez Suarez.
Capriles Denies Cancer Rumours
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles denied rumours today that he was suffering from skin cancer, but confirmed that he had sought medical attention for burns to his face.
Through a video posted on his Twitter account, Capriles announced that he was currently in the United States visiting his sister and receiving medical care. Capriles said that doctors confirmed that he does not have skin cancer, and that he hopes to recover quickly. He said that the damage to his skin resulted from sunburn.
Below, an image of Capriles’ face as it appears in the video he posted:
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