Venezuela: The Internet Goes Dark in Táchira

After sixteen days of protests across Venezuela, the Internet went dark in the state of Táchira, reportedly for 36 hours. Twitter users and news sites reported that electricity also appeared to have been cut in the area. On February 21, the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal tweeted:

10:59 pm Neighbors from state of Táchira report that they have gone 24 hours without Internet service from CANTV.

Moises Maldonado, an engineer in Táchira, tweeted:

In Táchira we were without Internet, water, light, food, gasoline, [public] transport, commerce. But we do have balls, which is what Venezuela needs right now.

It was in Táchira that the protests began. Violent repression of demonstrators has been especially severe in the state, and many have reported military helicopters flying over head. Noticiero24 tweeted:

TÁCHIRA: militarized without Internet http://t.co/81M2oHarsj The flyovers return and barricades are maintained.

Internet blackouts of this magnitude are unprecedented in Venezuela. But web blocking is not. Over the last six months, as inflation has soared to over 50%, foreign currency valuation sites have been blocked en masse. Since protests escalated last week, hundreds of blogs and websites covering news and political issues have been reported as blocked, both on Twitter and on the crowd-sourcing platform, Herdict. For over a week, users throughout the country have reported difficulty accessing Twitter and a dramatic overall drop in Internet speed.

In this most recent incident, some citizens explained that the blockage was only on government-run ISP CANTV, and that they were able to access the web through mobile connections. But others said that they were unable to get online using other ISPs. Journalist Lorena Arráiz tweeted:

It's been now 24 hours without internet connection from the ABA service.

After two days of darkness, service returned. Science and Technology Minister Manuel Fernández apologized for the disconnection, saying that there had been “problems at northern Táchira and in San Cristóbal,” caused by the “many fires in the city.”

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