Andes, Today in Latin America, Venezuela

Venezuelan Capital Hit by Blackouts as Country’s Economy Worsens

December 5, 2014 By Staff

Top Story — A blackout struck downtown and east Caracas on Thursday afternoon, causing subway stations to cease operating and passengers to be evacuated. Thursday’s blackout is the latest to have hit Venezuela at an increasing rate in recent years, a situation of growing concern as plummeting oil prices threaten to worsen the country’s already dire economic situation.

In June, a major blackout interrupted a televised presidential ceremony, embarrassing Venezuela’s leaders. The blackout — the result of a power plant failure — hit at least 14 of the 23 Venezuelan states and caused extensive traffic gridlock. It followed massive power outages in 2012 and 2013, the latter plunging 70 percent of the country into darkness after the national distribution network broke down.

Critics blame the increased frequency of blackouts on budgetary mismanagement. Opposition leaders have argued that the government has not injected sufficient capital into the electricity sector since its nationalization in 2007. With global oil prices currently at a five-year low, the administration, which relies on oil exportation for 65 percent of its spending, will see its budget contract in the next year.

President Nicolás Maduro has attributed the increasing power outages to sabotage by the opposition. Speaking after the 2013 blackout, he classified it as “part of a low-level war” on the revolution launched by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made his first visit on Tuesday to Guerrero state, where 43 teacher-training students disappeared in late September, to announce measures aimed at financially helping those affected by recent protests and violence.
  • Police in Mexico say that they have rescued two kidnapping victims, killing five suspected members of the Zetas drug cartel in the process.
  • Mexican soldiers and federal units will take over policing duties in the tourist town of Acapulco, in an effort to fight drug cartels and root out corruption in local police forces.

Caribbean

  • Herman Badillo, a pioneer and advocate for Latino rights who went on to become the first member of Congress born in Puerto Rico, died at the age of 85 on Wednesday.
  • Cuban baseball talent Yoan Moncada has one of the more mysterious defection stories, reports VICE Sports — no small feat in an industry chock-full of clandestine and troublesome transactions that guarantee Latin America’s top players make it to the MLB.

Central America

  • A Guatemalan court announced Wednesday that former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will not serve jail time due to health reasons, and will be allowed to remain under house arrest for his role in the massacre of almost 1,800 indigenous people in 1982 and 1983.
  • Community-based anti-violence efforts in Central America, funded by USAID, have produced promising results, according to a quantitative study by Vanderbilt University researchers.

Andes

  • Anti-corruption organization Transparency International has named Venezuela the 161st most corrupt country of 175 countries analyzed in its 2014 Index.
  • Venezuela will broaden its definition of international reserves to include diamonds and other assets, part of an effort to offset the impact on its balance books from high inflation and lower income due to collapsing oil prices.

Southern Cone

  • Argentina will offer an early payment on a bond due October 2015, its latest move to calm investors after defaulting in July on a foreign debt payment.
  • The Brazilian government will look to private analysts to help calculate its budget, one of several changes planned by incoming Finance Minister Joaquim Levy.
  • Fans of a rival soccer team beat Argentine player Franco Nieto to death during a lower league match in the town of Aimogasta, bringing the number of football-related deaths in the country to 15 this year.

Image: YouTube

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