Home World Venezuela: in Caracas, life at the rhythm of water cuts

Venezuela: in Caracas, life at the rhythm of water cuts

Due to lack of maintenance of the distribution network, the water cuts become the daily lot of Venezuelans.

Rich or poor use system D to stock up.

It is 13 hours on the Cota Mil, the highway along the Avila, the mountain glued to Caracas, north of the city. Some cars are parked on the roadside. Their owners did not come to go hiking: here, we come with cans and all kinds of containers and we wait for his turn to fill them with water from the mountain. Drinking water that flows continuously through pipes. It takes about a quarter of an hour to fill a can of 18 liters.

Rosalva, 61-year-old manucurist, has just arrived on the spot, deposited by car by a friend. Like others, she places her cans in the queue, already long, and waits for her turn … which will arrive at 18 hours. Even if the inhabitants of Caracas are used to queues, recurring especially in the shops, one does not come so lose his day without a good reason. Rosalva, who lives in the center of the capital, has a habit of living with running water only one hour each evening, and Friday all day. "When the water comes in, you have to run to fill up everything you can to make reserves, and then you have to use it sparingly: for example, you pee three times before hunting, and you use bleach to prevent bad smells. "

A can of water equals one-ninth of the minimum wage

The water of the mountain, Rosalva uses it for drinking and cooking. If she had to buy the same can of 18 liters of filtered water in the city, it would cost her 2,200 bolivars – more than one ninth of the minimum wage, the one she touches. "Here, even the police come to fill their cans, if she enjoys. And those I saw told me that they too, like us, no longer want this government! " She went out to demonstrate in recent weeks, with opposition, because "The situation is very difficult here: there is no medicine, no food, we can not stand this government, they live quietly while the people lack everything! "

These water shortages are a reality shared by all the inhabitants of Caracas and throughout the country. They have particularly worsened since the 2014 drought. According to data from public water companies analyzed by the information website Prodavinci, the population receives on average only two days a week of running water. With 14 hours a week, Falcon State, on the coast, is the worst off the country.

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The shortages are due in particular to the deterioration and the lack of maintenance of the systems of production, transport and distribution of water. But also the lack of work undertaken to respond to the increase in population. Thanks to subsidies, running water remains the least expensive on the continent: according to Prodavinci, it is billed at a cost of 4,000 to 27,000 times less than that of other Latin American countries. "Yet it is very expensive to raise the water to Caracas, which is 1,000 meters above sea level, explains Roraima Alfonzo, engineer in hydrometeorology. Here, it is paid a ridiculous price, which does not correspond at all to what it costs. "

On the side of Cementerio, a very popular area of ​​the city, Yolanda lives on the first floor of a house. The water is cut from Wednesday to Saturday night at midnight. When she returns on Sunday, she must be stocked to be able to hold the following days. "For laundry, we wait for Sunday She says.

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From collecting rainwater to drilling a well

The oldest member of her family, aged 67, spends several hours a week, sometimes assisted by the other six members of the household, working on the chore of filling vats and basins. On the terrace at the top of the house, a multitude of containers, of various shapes and sizes, are stored, filled, ready for use as soon as the water is cut. "In our street, when it rains, we see people who collect rainwater, to use it for the toilets and to wash themselves"Yolanda explains.

In the face of the problem, all strategies are possible. In the working classes, some people collect water at their place of work. Gladys, 55, carries a five-liter bottle of filtered water four times a week and recovers it from her private school in Petare, Caracas' largest slum. A dozen days ago, after a tornado touched Cuba and the government of Nicolas Maduro announced the sending of material aid solidarity for the island, including 300,000 liters of water, Gladys exploded : "It's madness: how can we send water to another country when here the people suffer from incredible shortages. They do not even realize the needs of their own people! "

Clandestine drilling

Michelle, a 24-year-old real estate agent, lives in the well-to-do neighborhood of Chacao. Faced with the constraint of rationing, she invested in a 500-liter tank connected to the pipe network of the apartment, which allows, by an electric pump system, to use tap water stored at any time of day, rather than having to serve in basins. But that's not enough, she explains, especially for laundry. "Sometimes I have to go to my mother's house"sighs the young woman.

The problems of water scarcity have worsened so much that a growing number of residences are choosing to have a well dug, to be used directly in the water table. The operation is expensive: about 20 000 dollars (17 700 €). And is often done illegally, as long as the steps are long with the state to obtain the permit. According to Michelle, this phenomenon is increasing in the upscale neighborhoods of Caracas and is driving up the price of homes. But if the chaotic construction of wells were to multiply, the long-term risk, according to Roraima Alfonzo, would be to cause a subsidence of the soil. Because of the clandestine nature of these boreholes, the state can not impose a standard.

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Maria, 64, lives in a residence, with swimming pool, with a well in the district of Santa-Eduvigis, in the east of Caracas. The steps to obtain the permit to dig the well could never be finalized, she managed without: "It's better that it does not know", she says. What is certain is that living in a residence with a well changes your life: "It really is a comfort: you can open your tap at any time, take a shower whenever you want. You do not have to plan your day according to the arrival of the water. "

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Landmarks

For three weeks, two presidents

January 23, 2019. Parliament President Juan Guaido challenges Nicolas Maduro by calling himself Venezuela's interim president at a major demonstration against power. He promises "A transitional government and free elections" and receives support from the United States.

24th January. The army ranks behind Nicolas Maduro, supported by Russia, China and Turkey, who denounce foreign interference.

January 28th. The United States punishes the oil company PDVSA to weaken the Maduro regime. The latter opens legal proceedings against Juan Guaido, freezes his bank accounts.

January 30. Thousands of opponents call on the army to support Guaido and let in humanitarian aid. The UN reports 40 deaths during protests.

February 4th. France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands recognize Juan Guaido as acting president.

February 6th. The military prevents the passage of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to the border with Colombia.

Maga Curti, special correspondence from Caracas

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