Nicolás Maduro has asked Venezuelans to pray for the country’s recovery from another crippling nationwide blackout, in a crackly and foreboding telephone interview that reinforced the mounting sense of crisis.
As Venezuela Crisis continues, a late-night broadcast, President Maduro claimed the latest power cut had been caused by a sniper attack on a key part of Venezuela’s energy infrastructure carried out by mercenaries “sent by the coup-mongering right”.
“They knew what they were attacking … Only the North American empire has enough hatred, enough wickedness in its brain, enough perversity, has a diabolical enough mind to order an attack like this,” Maduro said, claiming the supposed long-range rifle attack had caused a devastating fire.
“This is a total war,” Venezuela’s authoritarian leader added. “Since they can’t invade the country … they have decided to damage, damage, damage.”
Experts believe the crippling power failures which have continued to blight Venezuela this week after a historic six-day outage early this month are a consequence of
years of under-investment and corruption.
“There is an electrical war being waged against Venezuela, but it is by the Maduro government,” said José Aguilar, a Venezuelan energy consultant.
Mr Maduro alleged the “brutal terrorist attack” had been masterminded by Donald Trump and his “diabolical puppet”, Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who most western governments now recognize as Venezuela’s interim president.
“It was an enemy bombardment and you can be certain Donald Trump had a hand in this … Donald Trump is obsessed with Venezuela.”
Maduro’s telephone interview with state television which many Venezuelans were unable to watch because they had no electricity was intended to reassure the population his administration was in control.
“I am neither a coward nor a weakling and I will not shirk my responsibility,” Maduro insisted, adding that he had not slept since the blackout began.
Maduro has also called on Venezuelans to respond to the crisis by showing “maximum union and maximum Christian spirituality and resistance”.
But Maduro’s comments and the fact that he failed to appear in the flesh reinforced the sense that tough days lie ahead for a country already struggling with hyperinflation and chronic shortages of food, water and medicine.
Only on Thursday morning – 12 hours after the phone interview took place was video footage published on Maduro’s Twitter account.
Maduro admitted, “tremendous damage” had been done to the national grid and asked Venezuelans to pray.
“Everyone should know that the damage that has been done is more severe than any Venezuelan can imagine,” he said, announcing that electricity “administration” would be necessary for the coming days.
Aguilar, the energy specialist, rejected Maduro’s claims that the “evil empire” was to blame and warned nationwide blackouts might become Venezuela’s new normal.
“This will happen again and again because with every blackout the grid is more strained and more substations go up in flames,” Aguilar said, adding that rationing could alleviate some of the burdens while repairs were made.
Venezuela’s second-largest city, Maracaibo which was
plunged into chaos by the first blackout remained in the dark on Wednesday night, two days after the latest blackout began.
At a rally in Caracas, Guaidó mocked the government’s claims that foreign saboteurs had caused the blackouts and told supporters to prepare for a final nationwide push against Maduro dubbed “Operation Freedom”.
“What we are asking for, and what we are fighting for every single day, is to live normally,” Guaidó said.