By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Venezuelan capital of Caracas has been without water for the last week, as the main reservoir serving the city, La Mariposa, is reportedly out of commission, the latest in a series of seemingly government-induced disasters in an oil rich yet humanitarian-crisis wracked country.
State water utility Hidrocapital said on Thursday there was going to be a 48 hour interruption in a city that has already been under severe rationing for the last six years at least.
And perhaps most importantly, Hidrocapital will have to make do with only Bs 17.1 billion in 2018, according to the approved Budget. That is 74% less than the Bs 66.3 billion it received in 2017.
Areas of Caracas that routinely received round the clock, 24/7 water service when Hugo Chavez was alive, now can go a full week without water. Former Hidrocapital official Norberto Bausson was quoted in Caracas daily “El Universal” as saying the interruptions affect some 5.3 million people in the capital and parts of Miranda state alone, in this country of more than 31 million which is also suffering under hyperinflation.
The interruptions have been particularly severe in East Caracas, where anti-Maduro protests are usually, held, while traditionally pro-government West Caracas has to make do with three hours of water a day in certain, selected areas. Monday morning, neighbors took their SUVs to the pumping station in Urbanizacion Horizonte, trying to fetch enough water in cans and other ill-suited canisters to withstand the shortage.
In the line, old men from poorer sections of town offered tips on how to achieve a task they were obviously not used to performing.
“Three of these”, said a man flashing a 5-liter container that once held mineral water, “are enough to flush a toilet”.
A similar situation is being experienced, to some degree, all over Venezuela, a situation that has prompted the government to threaten arrest anyone who protests the interruption in water service.
Government critics don’t see an end to the deterioration, painting instead a “Walking Dead”-type of dystopia for future Venezuela.
“In the short term, the water and electricity services will collapse, gasoline will run out, there will be no public transportation and the salary will no longer purchase anything. All of this is the fault of the dictatorship. Now is the moment for the working class to get together to demand democracy and freedom,” Jose Guedez, an opposition lawmaker, tweeted Monday morning, as Caracas was looking at yet another day without water.
In its yearly report, published last week, the Ministry of Eco-Socialism and Water reported that -- while there seems to be plenty of socialism in Venezuela -- there is in fact less water. In 31 of the country’s 62 reservoirs there was indeed 30% less water than at the same point last year, according to the report.
While repeating the common claim that failures are the result of equipment and theft, in its 2017 annual report the ministry also admitted that state and city utilities had fewer resources to tend to emergencies.
Caracas city utility Hidrocapital for instance only operates four water trucks for the 5.3 million people cited above, and has to rely on the Army and the Fire Department to supplement that service.