US accused of ‘multiple cyberattacks’ causing nationwide blackouts in Venezuela

11 Mar 2019317 Views

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Venezuela flag. Image: © natanaelginting/Stock.adobe.com

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Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro blames his country’s fourth consecutive day of widespread power outages on US-backed cyberattacks.

Venezuela is currently experiencing the worst power outage in the nation’s history – and embattled Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro claims that the “imperialist United States” is to blame.

The countrywide blackout has left Venezuelans without power and cell service. Food, already in scarce supply due to the country’s hyperinflationary economic collapse, has begun to rot. Reports have already emerged of two confirmed deaths due to the disruption – a baby in a neonatal ward and a patient in the children’s hospital.

The government has suspended school and business activities without giving any indication of when the issues are to be resolved, leaving many to wonder whether this lightless limbo will be indefinite.

Tweeting yesterday (10 March), Maduro claimed the national grid had been subject to “multiple cyberattacks” that have led to the mass outage. The president of Venezuela swore that “great efforts” were being made to restore functionality.

Per the Associated Press, information minister Jorge Rodríguez described the alleged US-backed assault as an attack on the Venezuela’s Guri Dam, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric stations and a core element of the Venezuelan electrical grid. The attack is, Rodríguez claims, impacting the dam’s operating system, which controls the distribution of power.

“By attacking the automated control system, the machines stop as a protective mechanism,” Rodríguez said.

The New York Times reported last year that the Pentagon has given the US Cyber Command powers to take an aggressive, on-the-offensive approach to combating cybercrime. The new elevated status would allow for “nearly daily raids” on foreign networks in the hopes of destroying cyberweapons before they can be deployed.

Yet sources contest the claims that a cyberattack is behind the outages. Speaking to Reuters, former president of the state-run body that controls the electric system, Miguel Lara, said that the blackouts are likely a result of infrastructure that has been slowly decaying for years, suffering due to lack of investment. Many commentators have also pointed out that Maduro’s government has yet to provide substantial evidence to support its claims.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also made a statement saying that the Venezuelan government only has itself to blame, chalking the crisis up to “the Maduro regime’s incompetence” in a series of tweets.

“Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness,” Pompeo added. “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

Eva Short is a Journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

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