Venezuela Has a Power Problem and China Wants to Help

By Ryan Gandolfo, March 14, 2019

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On Wednesday, China offered to help Venezuela fix its power grid after the nation experienced its worst blackout ever last week.

A nationwide power outage reportedly started during the evening rush hour on March 7, cutting off water and internet to millions of Venezuelans, according to the Washington Post. Multiple cities were said to have experienced mass looting and vandalism as residents were left in a dire situation. On March 9, a second national power outage occured, causing 96 percent of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure to go offline.

Satellite images of Venezuela and neighboring countries. Image via @PatriciaRODDY/Twitter

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro called on China and Russia to assist the South American country in investigating the outage and helping to restore the grid. As of press time, power has been restored to most parts of the country.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang spoke at a press briefing on Wednesday, responding to Maduro’s remarks by saying that China is “deeply concerned” over the large-scale blackouts. He added that China is willing to offer assistance and technology to resume power in the country.

The cause of the blackout is currently unknown; however, Maduro has blamed the US government for the outage, referring to the event as an “electricity war” in a post on Twitter. Meanwhile, experts have speculated the blackout may have been caused by a technical problem regarding transmission lines that link a hydroelectric plant with the southeastern part of Venezuela, according to Reuters.

While the idea of shutting down an entire nation’s power grid may sound like a tall order, it’s not as hard as one may think. Foreign Policy reported in 2014 that hackers can shut down the grid by targeting a handful of substations considered vulnerable. The initial disruptions can cause a chain reaction that will overload other parts of the network, commonly referred to as a ‘cascading failure.’

While roughly 30 million people are said to have been affected by the nationwide blackout in Venezuela, over 700 million people in India were left without power in 2012 after three of the country’s five electricity grids turned off.

[Cover image via @pllopez/Twitter]

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