By Manaure Quintero and Anggy Polanco
SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) – Electricity cuts are worsening in the Venezuelan border state of Tachira, residents said, complicating daily life and hitting attempts to revive the economy amid loosened currency controls.
The South American country’s public utility infrastructure has been deteriorating for more than a decade, but worsened in 2019 when there were three major national black-outs.
Border states like western Tachira – which are on the end of national transmission lines – tend to suffer the worst of cuts.
Residents of the state capital San Cristobal said electricity was often off for 16 hours a day, hitting shoe and textile factories which had tried to resume production after President Nicolas Maduro loosened currency controls three years ago.
“If anything we have one hour of electricity at night and one hour during the day,” said bracelet maker Claudia Galeano, 47, whose refrigerator was broken by constant surges.
She does not have the money to repair it, she said, so now she buys only what food her family will eat that day.
Corpoelec, the state power company, did not respond to a request for comment. Venezuelan authorities have previously attributed black-outs to attacks on the system by opponents of Maduro’s government.
The power problems are just one element of the challenges facing Venezuelans amid a long-running economic collapse and political crisis.
De facto dollarization has provided some relief for merchants, but the minimum wage remains equivalent to just $30 a month and inflation, according to official figures, was more than 284% in the 12 months to March.
According to analysts, 90% of transactions in Tachira take place in foreign currency, mainly in the pesos of Colombia, just over the border. In the country’s other major cities, some 60% of transactions are in dollars.
“Every day there are different prices,” said 64-year-old Jesus Contreras, adding Venezuelan bolivares are hardly used.
(Reporting by Manaure Quintero and Anggy Polanco, Writing by Mayela Armas and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alison Williams)