Postcard from... Caracas


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The Independent Online

The lights went out on Paddington Bear at 9pm the other night, just one more victim of Venezuela’s general economic meltdown. Struggling to keep the country’s electricity grid from melting down, the government requires that most billboards go dark after rush hour.

You’d think power is the one thing Venezuela would not be having problems with, having the largest oil reserves in the world. Yet, like so many other things, the national network of power lines and substations has been neglected and is now at breaking point.

Households in Caracas must respect a limit on the electricity they consume each month or face a fine.  Homes with clothes dryers may not use them. No wonder every apartment tower in the city is festooned like a Christmas tree with drying laundry.

Power outages are nothing new to Venezuela. Last June, one blackout darkened not just Caracas but over half of the country’s 23 states. Embarrassingly it came midway through a nationally televised ceremony being led by President Nicolas Maduro.

Blackouts make for jumpiness in a country as politically unstable as this one. Twitter feeds lit up during a dinner the other night: Caracas had gone dark. Another transformer on the fritz.