In Chavista Venezuela it is not just running water that is no longer available, but electricity too. Inadequate investment and a lack of maintenance has collapsed the electricity grid, plunging much of the country into darkness for prolonged periods of time.
Electricity used to be partially privately-owned, part state-owned, but in 2007 former President Hugo Chavez expropriated the assets of the largest private power producer, Electricidad de Caracas. Chavez merged all electric companies into one big state monopoly, the Corporación Eléctrica Nacional (CORPOELEC).
Power cuts due to underinvestment and poor management began in 2009 and have increased in both frequency and severity over time. In 2016 public sector employees were put on a three day week in order to preserve power.
While $50 billion was supposedly invested in the sector in recent years, there is little to show for it aside from 130 houses worth €72 million in Spain recently confiscated by Spanish police from Venezuela’s Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines. Such corruption, also in the form of power stations paid for but never built, clearly contributed to the failure of the system. Of Venezuela’s installed electricity capacity, 50% of the system does not work and 75% of the infrastructure is obsolete. The electricity grid is hopelessly inadequate and completely unable to meet demand.
Key turbines have been allowed to deteriorate and some power installations have actually exploded due to lack of maintenance. The maintenance crisis is exacerbated by the resignation of many qualified engineers and technicians who have fled the country. The Chavista regime’s decision to keep electricity prices substantially below cost has prevented CORPOELEC from earning enough money to maintain its systems. Instead of benefiting regular citizens, the absurdly low electricity prices have spurred a wave of Bitcoin mining.
Electricity shortages have had a dire effect on the Venezuelan economy. During power cuts the Caracas metro no longer operates, and people must walk to work. In Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second largest city, and the surrounding state of Zulia power cuts last days at a time. In Zulia a lack of maintenance means that the power plants are running at 20 percent of capacity, according to Angel Navas, the President of the National Federation of Electrical Workers.
Zulia used to produce 70% of Venezuela’s milk and meat but in the absence of electricity to milk cows and keep meat from spoiling, the state’s production has fallen almost by half, according to Venezuela’s National Federation of Ranchers. Businesses cannot sell their goods, especially because they require electric card readers to process payments now that hyperinflation has made cash too bulky to be practical.
However, the situation is much worse in hospitals, where lives depend on a stable electricity supply. Hania Salazar, the president of the Zulia state nursing association, said that hospitals in Venezuela are becoming large-scale morgues. He questioned "how, as a human, as a health professional, can you treat a patient when you don’t have anything to offer them when you don’t know when the electricity will cut off".
The regime’s failure to provide its citizens with basic utilities is a damning indictment of its ability to provide stable governance. Having assumed the burden of caring for its citizens through expropriations, it has comprehensively failed them on all fronts. Venezuelans deserve a government that can provide them with the basic human necessities.
More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website.