Guri hydropower plant. Image: fadi. License: cc by-sa 2.0
Maduro hopes for start of rainy season
In venezuela, the electoral alliance mesa de la unidad democratica (mud), which since december has had almost a two-thirds majority in parliament but does not form the government of the prasidial republic, yesterday handed over to the electoral authority consejo nacional electoral (cne) 80 boxes which, according to its own information, contain 1.85 million signatures for a referendum to remove president nicolas maduro from office. According to the mud secretary general jesús torrealba, two and a half million signatures have been collected. The electoral authority must now verify the signatures submitted.
If the data of the collectors are correct, then they had collected within the prescribed 30 days almost thirteen times as many signatures as were necessary to initiate the second stage of the referendum. In this second stage, 20 percent of eligible voters – about four million citizens – must sign the petition.
The fact that so many eligible voters are so dissatisfied with the president is not only due to the gross domestic product (which fell by about 10 percent in 2015), the world’s highest murder rate in the capital caracas, or the inflation rate, which was over 140 percent last year and could reach 720 percent this year according to imf estimates: in the country that has the highest waterfalls in the world, there is currently so little electricity that the public service only works two days a week (cf. Venezuela: two-day week for public services) and women have been asked not to blow-dry their hair.
The reason why there is so little electricity in venezuela is that it comes almost exclusively from hydroelectric plants. The power plant at the giant guri reservoir alone covers up to 70 percent of the country’s demand. This guri reservoir shrank considerably in recent months because it hardly rained at all. Currently, the water level is 241.41 meters. If it drops another 1.41 meters, most of the turbines will have to be shut down. Then the country is practically without electricity.
The rainy season usually begins in may
Maduro and his chavists are therefore hoping that the rainy season, which normally begins in may, will start soon. According to the government, the main reason for the empty reservoirs is el nino, a climatic phenomenon that caused a particularly dry year. However, venezuela has a dry season every year, which usually lasts from december to april. And while el nino occurs only once every three to seven years, venezuela has already experienced severe problems with electricity supply in the spring of 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
The accusation by maduro’s opponents that the chavists had poured too much state money into consumer relief and neglected investments in infrastructure cannot therefore be dismissed out of hand: after all, the country not only has an extremely high birth rate, but also such a high level of solar radiation that a targeted demand for photovoltaic systems could significantly improve the power supply, especially during the dry season. It is questionable whether the nuclear power plant that hugo chavez, who died in 2013, wanted to have built by the russian rosatom group could have done so in the same way: nuclear reactors need a lot of cooling water.
Shortage of water, electricity and beer
In 2004, hugo chavez’s opponents had already collected more than two and a half million signatures in an attempt to remove the president from office: the subsequent vote, however, was clearly in favor of the charismatic mestizo with 59.25 percent. It is questionable whether the former bus driver maduro will also be able to do this: the rather simple mind, which believes in holy apparitions of its predecessor in the construction of the subway (cf. As described above, the country is struggling with much worse economic conditions than ten years ago.
That this is the case is due, among other things, to the two-thirds drop in the price of oil in recent years, behind which maduro openly suspects a deliberate policy on the part of the united states. The fact that venezuela is so dependent on oil is also due to the chavists, who have increased dependence on this commodity since 1999 to such an extent that it is now responsible for over 95 percent of state revenues, while the manufacturing industry has increasingly had to contend with a lack of raw materials due to foreign exchange restrictions. Among other things, this led to a shortage of beer, because the breweries in the country can not get enough grain.