The Lights Are Going Out In Venezuela

Caracas blackout VenezuelaReutersA man stands at the balcony of his apartment as he waits for the power to return after a blackout in Caracas December 2, 2013.

Parts of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, are experiencing blackouts, according to Reuters.

It’s not the first time the country has experienced serious problems with its electrical grid. In June a presidential ceremony was interrupted and transit grounded to a halt when widespread blackouts hit the country. In that instance, the darkness was due to a power plant failure.

This round of outages are hitting at a crucial time for Venezuela. Oil prices have plummeted over the last several weeks, and the commodity makes up 95% of Venezuela’s exports. Officials advocated for a cut in oil production at last week’s OPEC meeting but were rebuffed.

Now traders fear that, without enough oil revenue, default is the end game. The country has few options in terms of how it can cut spending. The government has committed to continuing expensive social programs started by late-President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela’s foreign minister has also said that the country will continue with its Petrocaribe oil program for neighbouring states in which oil is sold to members at a steep discount.

Raising oil prices at home is also an uncomfortable option. Venezuelans get a massive discount on the commodity, but with groceries and other goods are already very scarce and expensive in the country where the inflation rate is over 60%. Citizens wait for hours to enter stores to buy rationed goods.

All of this will likely lead to major political instability. Hundreds of thousands protested President Nicolas Maduro’s regime this winter and spring, but after leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to authorities things calmed down.

Now it looks like the government is on the hunt for enemies again, as opposition leader Maria Corina Machado was accused of plotting to kill Maduro on Wednesday.

So actually, it’s been dark in Caracas for some time.

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