Looting and violence are rapidly on the rise as Venezuela enters its fifth day without power across most of the country though some reports suggest as much as 30% of power has returned to parts of the capital city Caracas.
The UK Daily Mail has published a series of shocking photographs showing the aftermath of mobs looting supermarkets in Caracas as things turn desperate. The already politically unstable Latin American country was plunged into darkness after last Thursday night all but one of 23 states suffered mass blackouts.
As reports of approaching 20 or more deaths at hospitals attempting to operate with faulty back-up generators came in over the weekend, Reuters noted, "Electricity experts said that outage was most likely due to failures in the transmission system, and that the government lacks the equipment and staff to repair them."
Reuters further described "already-scarce food rotting in shops, homes suffering for lack of water and cell phones without reception."
And the Daily Mail reported "Pictures reveal that some supermarkets in the capital have been left ransacked by desperate residents as they struggle to find food."
Security personnel have been deployed throughout Caracas to prevent mass looting, though we can imagine that since reports of the water supply being impacted by the outage, people are simply reaching desperation and are attempting any way possible to endure the nightmare circumstances.
Photographs showed in some instances looters being piled into police trucks and vans — this as US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido over the weekend called for nationwide anti-Maduro protests over the failing infrastructure. Most analysts agree the electrical grid mass failure is the result of generally failing infrastructure after years of underinvestment and neglect.
People detained by security forces after looting broke out during an ongoing blackout are pictured in Caracas, Venezuela, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY pic.twitter.com/xMLZVQpwi2— Ivan Alvarado (@IvanAlvaradoE) March 11, 2019
Guaido now says he'll request the National Assembly to declare a "national emergency" on Monday in order to hasten the delivery of international aid into the country, an issue of contention given Maduro's repeat condemnation of 'unauthorized' US aid attempting to reach the borders.
US-backed Guaido is askeing the National Assembly "to take immediate actions with respect to the necessary humanitarian aid."
But Maduro doubled down on his prior allegations that Venezuela was actually the victim of US "sabotage" and an "electricity war," saying on Twitter Sunday: “The national electrical system has been subject to multiple cyberattacks,” and he added, “However, we are making huge efforts to restore stable and definitive supply in the coming hours.”
The country will enter its fifth consecutive day of power outages on Monday, which have also forced people to rummage through bins for food, queue to charge electronic devices using a solar panel and buy bread with 100-dollar bills after the country was hit by a fourth day of blackouts. — Daily Mail
Worse, an independent organization called Doctors for Health told Reuters that 17 hospital patients across the country have died as a result electricity outages at hospitals, and the unreliability of back-up generators.
And one unconfirmed and disputed local report said at least 80 neonatal patients died at University Hospital in Maracaibo, Zulia, over the course of the blackout. Though it remains difficult to assess or confirm such numbers, there's near universal affirmation that the crisis has hit humanitarian disaster levels, as things like ventilators and life-saving devices at hospitals fail.
The Daily Mail reported:
No national data was available about the impact of the power outage, but an NGO said at least 15 patients with advanced kidney disease died after they stopped receiving dialysis treatments in darkened hospitals.
As of Sunday, businesses remained shut, hospitals struggled to operate, and public transport barely functioned.
Sporadic looting and spontaneous protests. Desperate patients begging doctors to be kept alive. Sunday was the 4th day since Venezuela’s power system went down. https://t.co/GUPFplcXj6— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 11, 2019
Meanwhile the network monitoring organization NetBlocks said 96% of the entire country remained without internet access as of Sunday.
Caracas has attempted to communicate official government statements about the crisis through State TV social media accounts, but much of the population now remains isolated from the outside world.
Detainees are seen on a truck after looting during an ongoing blackout in Caracas, Venezuela March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY pic.twitter.com/WESJAPjpkI— Ivan Alvarado (@IvanAlvaradoE) March 11, 2019
Reports began to emerge Monday of lights slowly coming back on in parts of Caracas. According to Russia's TASS news agency:
The power supply of the Venezuelan capital Caracas is restoring, TASS reported from the scene.
After dark it could be seen that a considerable part of the street lighting system had started operating, and there was light in some houses. Caracas residents also reported the renewal of the electric power supply.
For the most part Venezuelans have attempted to carry on with normal life despite the extreme circumstances.
A wedding goes on in the dark...
#Update: Even in this situation in the blackout, normal life still continues in #Venezuela! Here is a video of a newly wed couple getting married in a dark church. Video Credit: @ElyangelicaNews pic.twitter.com/zY20NRKbdz— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) March 10, 2019
Over the weekend US officials were quick to capitalize on the Venezuelans' plight, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking to Twitter to say at the end of last week: “Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness,” and “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”