Venezuela: Turning off the lights of transparency

Venezuela’s National Electricity System Administration Center (Centro Nacional de Gestión del Sistema Eléctrico) was the raw material for a lot of posts in the first months of this website. As Venezuela passed through its deepest electricity crisis in years, the daily reports from that agency allowed us to follow the precipitous decline, and then abrupt re-filling, of the biggest hydro dam. It let us watch as operators tried repeatedly to start up a gas-fired generator at Planta Centro. The monthly reports, meanwhile, gave us an unparalleled view of how much diesel fuel was being burned in power plants, the operating status of the Loma de Niquel nickel mina, and whether utilities were telling the truth that Isla Margarita power plants were down for maintenance.

In a country where critics make sport of questioning official statistics, it was a pleasure to have credible numbers provided by what appeared to be real professionals. Yes, that’s the past tense. The last couple months, the CNG website (still under its old name, OPSIS) has been shut down. The home page says “For restructuring of the electricity sector, this site is under construction.” I wrote to the organization to request the monthly reports and to request that they send me daily reports if possible. The response I got was:

In accord with the communications policy of the institution, it’s necessary to finalize the process of re-engineering the Web portal so that through that platform, the community interested in the electricity sector can have its information requirements satisfied. We apologize for any problems this may cause. Sincerely, remaining attentive to your needs, (spokeswoman’s name)

I asked her for a copy of this “communications policy.” So far no reply.

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