Mar 11, 2019

Power outages across Venezuela have left Maduro wobbling

Caracas streets during a power outage on March 9, 2019. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is struggling to restore power to the country’s electricity grid after a devastating 96-hour nationwide blackout knocked out cellular, internet, and water services, resulting in at least 21 preventable deaths at hospitals.

The big picture: Tottering from crisis to crisis has taken a heavy toll on Maduro. His regime hasn't yet reached a burnout point, but with social unrest erupting into lootings as the crisis-stricken country gradually regains power, he will likely face a reckoning for his failure to protect the grid.

Details: Without evidence, Maduro blamed the power outage on the U.S., as the Chavista regime has since rolling blackouts began in 2009. The high command of the military, as well as the party hierarchy, have offered support, but Maduro has yet to convene his cabinet and top political lieutenants in public.

The opposition-controlled National Assembly declared a “state of alarm” and drew attention to Maduro’s subsidized oil sales to Cuba to underscore the regime’s criminal neglect of basic goods and services.

  • Juan Guaidó, named interim president by the Assembly, doubled down on his plan to oust Maduro, calling for street demonstrations and international humanitarian aid. That strategy has yet to break the regime, raising questions about whether the resistance could develop into an armed insurrection.

What to watch: Venezuelans will take the next steps, but if clashes continue yielding a stalemate, both sides may soon turn to their international backers for renewed support.

  • President Trump’s commitment to regime change in Venezuela seems stronger than ever, and secondary sanctions to expand the scope of unilateral oil sanctions are being prepared. Support for the Guaidó government is having material impact, with a new board appointed at Venezuela-owned CITGO — a step that sets up a key legal battle over republic assets.
  • For now, the U.S. strategy has stiffened China and Russia’s resistance, with the countries vetoing U.S.–proposed resolutions at the UN Security Council, and expressing willingness to provide Maduro a degree of financial flexibility.
  • Venezuela’s neighbors have continued to work via the Lima Group, heightening the rhetoric about the security implications of the crisis but thus far rejecting military intervention.

Michael McCarthy is a research fellow at American University’s CLALS, an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Elliott School for International Affairs, and the founder and CEO of Caracas Wire.

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Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

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