Chavez suspends rolling blackouts in Caracas


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 7

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez indefinitely suspended rolling blackouts in Caracas just a day after they began, and sacked his electricity minister saying he was responsible for mistakes in the way the rationing plan was applied.

Chavez’s announcement late on Wednesday was a significant shift in his attempts to prevent a widespread power collapse in the coming months by implementing rolling blackouts of up to four hours a day throughout the country.

“I’ve ordered the electrical outages to be suspended, only in Caracas,” Chavez said on state TV. “Because this government has to be capable of recognizing mistakes made and fixing them in time.”

Chavez said since the outages began in Caracas at midnight on Tuesday, authorities had cut power to the wrong sectors of the city in some cases.

“I think in one area they repeated the outage a few hours later,” he said, adding that some stoplights were left without power.

“Enough. I said if that’s what is going on, there was an error there,” Chavez said.

Chavez said he asked Electricity Minister Angel Rodriguez to resign and that “he has taken it like a soldier.”

Chavez said he ordered the chief of the city’s state electric utility not to schedule any more blackouts until the process is reviewed. It was unclear how soon the government could attempt to restart the measures in Caracas.

The government says rationing is necessary to prevent a widespread power collapse if the water levels behind Guri Dam — which supplies most of Venezuela’s electricity — fall to critical lows in the coming months due to a severe drought. Officials also acknowledge that some thermoelectric plants are producing below capacity while undergoing repairs.

The rolling blackouts have drawn angry complaints from many Venezuelans.