China offers to help Venezuela

China says it is ready to help Venezuela to restore its power grid. The South American country suffered a five-day blackout, with Caracas accusing Washington of cyber “sabotage.”

Background

China and Venezuela have historically enjoyed an amicable relation which was based largely on trade. Cooperation began growing significantly during the Presidency of Hugo Chávez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the tenure of Hu Jintao as the leader of the People's Republic of China. 

Sino-Venezuelan trade was less than $500m per year before 1999, and reached $7.5bn in 2009, making China Venezuela's second-largest trade partner, and Venezuela is China's biggest investment destination in Latin America.

Analysis

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing had noted reports that the power grid had gone down due to a hacking attack.

“China is deeply concerned about this,” Lu said, adding that Beijing “hopes that the Venezuelan side can discover the reason for this issue as soon as possible and resume normal power supply and social order. “China is willing to provide help and technical support to restore Venezuela’s power grid,” said the spokesman.

Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez said on Tuesday that operations of the country’s power grid have almost fully resumed nationwide.

The blackout hit Venezuela on March 7, as national electricity supplier Corpoelec reported “sabotage” at a major hydroelectric power plant called Guri. Power outages have been reported in 21 of the 23 Venezuelan states.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the United States for waging an energy war against his country, denouncing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Washington’s puppet. The US has denied any role in the crisis.

Maduro said he would ask China, Russia, Cuba and Iran, as well as the United Nations, to probe the attack on the country’s power grid.

Assessment

Our assessment is that China is leveraging both its economic capacity and the unstable situation in Latin America to augment its influence in the region. We believe that it is looking to aggressively counter US influence in its own backyard by supporting anti-American leaders in the continent.