HAVANA TIMES – Electricity is the spirit of modern-day society. Without it, we become zombies, at least for a while, the time it takes us to create a new spirit. Try it out. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be guinea pigs in order to prove my theory, we are already proving it in Venezuela.
The month that has just come to an end could from hereon out be referred to as the “Blackout” or, maybe, “Darkness”. January, February, Darkness, April. But, it seems that April is about to snatch its name from Darkness. The first blackout had us four days in the dark, the second seems to be never-ending.
On Friday March 29th, here in the outskirts of Barquisimeto, there was a blackout from the early morning until 3 PM, followed by just four hours of electricity and then it was cut again until Tuesday April 2nd, at 8 PM. We were able to enjoy this invaluable service for a little longer. Six hours and then we were left in the dark again.
Last night, the sensations in my body felt a little like when an astronaut comes back to earth. I knew that the electricity could last one, two or three hours, and even though I was tired after the long day, I sat down to write to friends and my family, and to work a little as my livelihood almost entirely depends on the Internet. The thing I was most worried about though, was whether there would be electricity in the morning so I could buy food.
As you already know, getting a hold of cash in Venezuela is as hard as trying to get a seat on a guagua (bus) in Cuba. Most transactions are made with a card. Without electricity in nearly every state in the country, it’s very unlikely you’ll find a business where you can buy without cash.
However the banks are shut. In some places around here, there is one way you can pay: you leave your debit card with the PIN and your ID card, then they take it to another business where the card machine does work, and 8-12 hours later you can go and pick up your card and whatever you bought. You’d have to be really desperate to hand over access to all your money to a stranger.
Amidst being in the dark with the news, we were able to listen to a couple of radio broadcasts, while the cellphone had battery. One was a commercial radio, the other was Venezuela’s National Radio station.
On the commercial radio, the hosts would repeat, over and over again as if it were a mantra, keep calm, as soon as we receive any information, we’ll let you know, keep calm.
Every minute, and I’m not exaggerating, they were asking us to keep calm.
On the second night of a national blackout, the Minister of Communications and I don’t know how many other ministries that don’t work either, finally came and showed his face. Sorry, he didn’t show his face, he sent a voice message with an epic poem in which he talked about a high-caliber bullet, a Fascist and killer bullet as the cause for this new blackout. Jorge Rodriguez read a very beautiful poem, but it didn’t tell us anything.
The commercial radio hosts were left stunned, just like we were. Keep calm.
Meanwhile, their colleagues on the state radio were discussing a neutron bomb.
I remembered some nights in my childhood in Havana, when the light would eventually go out and my uncle would entertain us with scary stories. I’m sure that this was the intention of these pro-Maduro radio hosts, entertain us by telling us about the great number of possible reasons the Empire had provoked this new blackout so as to launch a neutron bomb. The time was right, and they described all of the effects of the above-mentioned bomb, with humor.
Imagine being cut off from the world for two days, without water and the rest of your regular shortages, that you manage to listen to five minutes of the radio and that the story you hear is funny. I wonder if there is any chance I can accuse someone of communication terrorism or something of the sort.
On the third day, Maduro came back to life.
His poem wasn’t as beautiful as Jorge Rodriguez’s one. You could hear the clanking sound of silverware where, I’m sure, he was being served coffee. The rhyme of his whiny verses only made a subtle reference to an alleged act of sabotage, that they already knew was going to happen again.
He didn’t give us any real or technical fact about what was happening. He repeated the phrase “electromagnetic attack”, a little sick to death himself. And, he ended with a phrase in true biblical style: something will be happening for a month. Of course, he didn’t say what this “something” was, but the word he used was so unclear that every Venezuelan will have the chance to ponder over its meaning for a whole month.
He did, however, advise that we remain calm, that we fight to keep the peace, bla bla bla, peace, while his FAES troops are repressing protests in the streets and hooded men walk about Barquisimeto city in the light of day, looking for their next prey.
On Monday, electricity was switched back on in Caracas. They thought that the entire country would have it now, and classes started up again. At least that’s what Maduro tried to do. The last thing we heard was that the teachers refused to go. There isn’t even electricity in the whole of Caracas, let alone in the other states, and students and teachers don’t have anything to eat, or water, or cash to pay for transport.
In recent weeks, Russian planes have landed in Venezuela. Fans of strategic weapons, the Russians have come for the Amazon’s minerals. For a few years now, there has been talk about an important deposit right where the El Guri hydroelectric plant is. Would this be a likely cause for this darkness? Or does it just come down to the incompetence and theft of those who govern the country?
Beyond these causes, whatever they may be, the reality is that Venezuelans are being traumatized, psychologically. The economic crisis has stepped up a level, when you manage to buy something now you don’t even kick up a fuss about the price. People barely manage to speak with each other when there are several kilometers between them, despair is settling between the ribs, taking away our desire to speak, to breathe, to fight.
This only serves the regime, who deliver blow after blow, threat after threat and take away the freedom of journalists’ who try and report this. In Venezuela, we have been taken hostage.