Power is still out in much of Venezuela after an outage began Thursday in Caracas and spread to other parts of the country. The lack of electricity has caused at least 15 deaths, and hospitals are struggling.
President Nicolás Maduro has blamed the blackout on the U.S., which has supported Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Guaidó and others, though, have put the blame squarely on Maduro, with many demonstrating in the streets out of frustration.
Francisco Valencia (@valenciafran), director of Codevida, a health rights group based in Caracas, says hospitals are missing vital equipment in the midst of the blackout, including blood transfusions, insulin, x-rays and even back-up generators that would be able to restore lights and air conditioning.
“We've been having an emergency for the last four years, and now last week, we had a power outage that has been [lasting] almost 80 hours,” Valencia tells Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd. “We have been seeing a lot of death in the hospital.”
Valencia and other medical professional have been visiting hospitals and dialysis units to investigate the number of people dead. While 10,000 people in the country need dialysis daily, explains Valencia, many units have been shut down. “One person who doesn't receive this dialysis dies,” he notes.
"This is a result of the corruption of the government of Maduro, and the result is death."Francisco Valencia
In many frontier states too, like Táchira, people’s phone batteries have been dead, and some estimate 80 percent of the country has no internet. Due to these difficulties in communication, the full death count won’t be known for another two or three days, Valencia says.
Why Venezuela — a country where power outages are commonplace — was not better prepared for the nationwide blackout is “a good question for the government of Maduro,” says Valencia.
“Maduro is investing the corruption of money in the armed forces, ... and the hospitals were abandoned,” says Valencia. “Venezuela is living in a humanitarian crisis.
“This is a result of the corruption of the government of Maduro, and the result is death. ... So, what we see is a catastrophe.”
Power started to restore in Caracas on Saturday, but it is still off for a large part of the country. Utility workers estimate it will be days before electricity’s fully restored.
“We knew that someday we would need [these] extra batteries for their cell phones,” he says. “They send all that information to us here in Miami. We process it. We verify it, and then we send it to the media. That's how we are working right now.”
This segment aired on March 11, 2019.