MARACAIBO, Venezuela, (Reuters) – Across Maracaibo, the capital of Venezuela’s largest state, residents unplug refrigerators to guard against power surges. Many only buy food they will consume the same day. Others regularly sleep outside.
The rolling power blackouts in the state of Zulia pile more misery on Venezuelans living under a fifth year of an economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and mass emigration. OPEC member Venezuela’s once-thriving socialist economy has collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices.
Once famous for its all-night parties, now Maracaibo is often a sea of darkness at night due to blackouts.
The six state-owned power stations throughout Zulia have plenty of oil to generate electricity but a lack of maintenance and spare parts causes frequent breakdowns, leaving the plants running at 20 percent capacity, said Angel Navas, the president of the national Federation of Electrical Workers.
Energy Minister Luis Motta said this month that power cuts of up to eight hours a day would be the norm in Zulia while authorities developed a “stabilization” plan. He did not provide additional details and the Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.