by WorldTribune Staff, March 11, 2019
As the blackout that has crippled the capital of socialist Venezuela dragged into its fifth day on March 11, at least 17 people were reported dead as a result of the power outage which has left Caracas without Internet, mobile phones, banks, credit-card machines, or air-conditioning.
Pro-Maduro motorcycle gangs, known as “colectivos,” are reportedly patrolling the streets and enforcing order at gunpoint.
The situation in Venezuela has taken a “rapid & catastrophic turn” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, tweeted.
“Experts warned for months that years of #MaduroRegime negligence would lead to this collapse of electricity system. And regime does not have the expertise to fix it. If massive amounts of aid isn’t delivered very soon, I fear we are headed for an unprecedented catastrophe,” Rubio said.
Outside groups have attempted several times to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela only to be stopped at the border by forces loyal to dictator Nicolas Maduro.
“As bad as the humanitarian crisis was before. Since Thursday it has become increasingly horrific,” Rubio said.
Rubio noted that some Caracas hospitals that had been able to keep the power on with generators would soon be unable to do so because fuel is quickly running out.
“As of 8:30pm last night (March 9) 17 deaths have been reported in hospitals due to lack of electricity,” Rubio said. “The true number is higher. Patients on life support, in neonatal ICU have died & more will die in coming hours. Dialysis patients face certain death if they don’t get services soon.”
The NetBlocks Group, a private Internet watchdog organization based in the UK, reported on March 9 that 96 percent of Venezuela was offline.
“Venezuela experiences frequent power cuts, and Venezuela started power rationing and reduced its electricity consumption to about 14,000 megawatts at peak hours because of the economic crisis in 2018,” NetBlocks said. “However the nationwide outages are unprecedented in magnitude, extent and duration. NetBlocks historic data suggest that incidents of this scale are vanishingly rare.”
The group warned that the Internet outage “is likely to have had a significant and lasting impact on Venezuela’s ailing economy.”
“A study by Venezuelan daily Efecto Cocuyo in December using the NetBlocks and Internet Society Cost Of Shutdown Tool calculated that a total outage of connectivity alone would cost the economy more than 400 million U.S. dollars per day,” said NetBlocks. “The impact for the present incident is likely to be even higher given the impact of power outages on industry and non-digital economies.”
Maduro claimed that the blackout was the result of an “international cyber-attack” carried out by the U.S. government and opposition forces.
“The electrical warfare announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated,” Maduro tweeted on March 8. “I call for maximum unity patriots!”
Maduro vowed to “clean” Venezuela’s state-run electric company to get rid of “traitors” and “infiltrators.”