April 20, 2018 / 7:46 PM / 2 years ago

Western Venezuela suffering daily power cuts despite end to rationing

Carmenza Herrera uses her cellphone during a blackout in San Cristobal, Venezuela, April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

SAN CRISTOBAL/MARACAIBO, Venezuela, Reuters - Multiple daily power outages are on the increase in several cities in western Venezuela, despite the supposed end of state-sanctioned electricity rationing, people who live in the area say.

Electricity supply problems have long been on the rise in Venezuela and are notably worse in the first few months of the year, when there is little rainfall and reservoirs lack the flow to power hydraulic plants.

Critics blame inept management and maintenance, too, saying that has also impacted Venezuela’s cash cow, state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL]. The OPEC country is undergoing a major economic and social crisis, with millions suffering food shortages amid soaring inflation.

State electricity company Corpoelec, which originally ordered rationing in March following a drought, lifted the measure last week.

“There was a six-hour blackout on the day the minister said that rationing was suspended!” said Nelly Moreno, a 32-year-old nursing assistant, as she waited for power to return to her home in San Cristobal, a city near Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

Electricity minister Luis Motta blamed sabotage and asked people to report suspicious activity.

President Nicolas Maduro, who is gearing up for presidential elections in a month’s time, often points to sabotage for the country’s ills. He blames Venezuela’s economic woes on a war that he says is being waged against his government by the United States and the opposition.

“We live with uncertainty. We have no idea what time they are going to cut the power today,” said Yoselin Cote, a 31-year-old homemaker who lives in a poor neighborhood of San Cristobal.

Reporting by Anggy Polanco and Isaac Urrutia, Writing by Corina Pons and Girish Gupta, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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