OPINION: Civilians Left Behind After Blackout in Venezuela

Electricity returned to most of Venezuela on March 14 after a nationwide blackout afflicted the country for nearly a week, the Guardian reports. However, many people still remain without power and experts say it could be weeks or months before it returns in all regions.

The blackout highlights how the citizens of Venezuela often suffer the worst consequences of the country’s deteriorating situation but are frequently overlooked as international attention stays focused on government-level developments.

The blackout started on March 7 and impacted 70 percent of the country, including the capital, Caracas. The blackout compromised power, water, and communication services, adding to the chaos afflicting the country. At least 20 people have died.

As citizens struggled to live their day to day lives, the infrastructure crisis was seized upon as a political opportunity. Vox reports that opposition leader Juan Guaido stated that the Maduro regime is responsible for “murder,” pointing towards power failures at hospitals that resulted in deaths. In contrast, President Maduro pinned blame on the U.S., suggesting the outage was a cyberattack. In the meantime, the U.S. has pulled all diplomats out of the country according to NPR.

A recent report from the Central University of Venezuela identified the true cause of the power outage. It found that a bushfire near a power substation in eastern Venezuela compromised an essential part of the country’s power grid. Potential solutions, however, are unclear. The report finds it could take anywhere from 60 days to three years to fix compromised parts of the grid.

The people are once again bearing the brunt of the country’s shortcomings, but are unlikely to receive much help as various forces, including the government, continue to stall aid shipments.

The blackout has only further destabilized a country that has undergone severe political and economic crises for years. Reuters states that the government has detained hundreds of people in association with looting that occurred during the blackout, and USA Today reports that the blackout has hit the oil industry hard as well, which could lead to long term economic repercussions. Although some hope that the presidential crisis might resolve itself soon, civilian life is unlikely to see much improvement in the near future.