A couple of weeks ago The Private Case wrote about the sudden power cut in Argentina and whether it was an accidental event or it was created by a foreign power. On June 22, Venezuela was hit by a massive blackout, plunging the country, including its capital, Caracas, into despair. At 16:45, 16 of Venezuela’s states and Caracas lost power.

While the opposition argues that the actual government is inept to provide comfort and security to the population, Venezuela’s leftist-populist president, Nicolás Maduro was quick to blame the USA for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which targeted the Guri hydroelectric plant. Being one of the central and most important units in the country’s electrical net, the damage can be many folded because the whole electric grid in modern countries is automated. When imbalances that can cause major harms are detected, the system shuts down to protect itself. When an EMP takes out a central part of the electric grid, the remaining connected ones are automatically shut down to avoid damage. The whole grid goes off. 

EMP weapons are the results of high-altitude nuclear weapon tests during the 1960s in the USA. Nowadays the use of EMPs forms part of the military doctrines of China, North Korea and Russia, and perhaps of Israel and Iran. Naturally the US also relies on it and used it in wars against Serbia and Iraq in the past.
Maduro’s idea might not be as farfetched as some might think. There are many reasons from oil to unfavourable dictatorships or dissident Venezuelans why the USA would be happy to see the downfall of Hugo Chávez’s protégé.

EMP would be the perfect weapon of choice to destabilize an enemy country from within. EMP weapons send electromagnetic shocks, which then fry the electronics and devices -especially devices controlled by chips or computers- carrying the entire electronic network, including the internet. It’s a perfect weapon when the goal is not to kill people or destroy buildings. Without firing a single bullet, whole cities, states or countries can stay without power. The result? Hospitals running on emergency power, banks and ATMs don’t work, financial transactions are down, water supply fails, shops cannot operate, streets are dark, crime rises and with all comes a growing discontent from the population. The destruction could take from days to years to repair, depending on the effectiveness. In March, a similar power outage in Venezuela lasted almost for a week.

In Venezuela, most likely only the Guri hydroelectric power plant was directly affected (whether by EMP or not) and the rest of the grid failed like a domino. That is, nothing indicates that a direct EMP was used against cities or the country as a whole.
The importance is not whether external forces are behind the power failure in Venezuela or it’s a self-inflicted damage due to lack of investment, experts or working morale. Every event like this is a step closer to the end of a dictatorship, which crippled a once-successful and rich nation.

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