70% Of Venezuela Suffers Electricity Blackouts; 9th Largest Oil Producer In Serious Energy Trouble

 @PReyMallen
on September 05 2013 8:40 AM

Venezuela has entered a black hole. The country’s main power distribution network failed on Tuesday, leaving 14 of the country's 24 states in the dark for part of the day. Twenty-four hours later, seven of them had yet to regain light.

Electricity Minister Jesse Chacón said in a press conference that the network bringing electricity to 65 percent of the country failed for unknown reasons on Tuesday morning. Chacón clarified that an official investigation would determine the causes, but some officials have already pointed fingers at the opposition and called the incident a sabotage.

President Nicolás Maduro tweeted that “I am well aware of the bizarre situation with the electricity service -- it all looks like the right-wing has gone back to its plan of an energy coup.”

Caracas was left in chaos, with traffic lights going crazy and the subway system interrupted. Even when electricity was restored, most of the main roads remained jammed for hours on Tuesday afternoon. Some areas of the city, along with seven other states, still did not have normal service on Wednesday morning, reported Caracas newspaper El Universal.

Blackouts, either spontaneous or planned, have become a routine in Venezuela -- especially worrisome considering the South American country is the world’s ninth-largest producer of oil. The blackouts have been frequent since 2010, when it was clear for the first time that the country was suffering from an electricity shortage.

Three years and four electricity ministers later, the crisis continues.

Electricity is not the only energy sector going through hard times in Venezuela. The state-owned oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela has fallen into a serious hole: In 2012 alone, losses amounted to $7.7 billion and debt rose to $40 billion, 15 percent more than the previous year.

Long gone are the pretensions of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who in 2011 predicted Venezuela would raise its energy production by 220 percent. “We are one of the few countries in the world that has that growing potential,” he said.

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