The 2019 Venezuelan Blackout and the consequences of cyber uncertainty

Joseph Devanny, Luiz Rogério Franco Goldoni, Breno Pauli Medeiros


In March 2019, Nicolás Maduro claimed that the blackout in Venezuela was caused by U.S. cyber-attacks. This statement was promptly denied by Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State. Irrespective of the truth of Maduro’s allegation, this episode highlights the diplomatic challenges for states in the contemporary information environment, in which contested narratives proliferate and embed themselves more durably because of the deterritoriality and disintermediation of the Internet. This is particularly true in the context of an emerging pattern of state actors conducting cyber operations against critical infrastructure in other states. The cumulative impact of these different strands is that states will likely struggle to control the perception of their intentions in the cyber domain, not only amongst governments but across the many national audiences that comprise the global public sphere. Focusing on Maduro’s allegation, this article analyses the political utility of cyber uncertainty, and its corresponding implications for states’ cyber strategies and decisionmaking.


Cyberspace; Uncertainty; Cyber Operations; Cyber Defense; Digital Diplomacy.

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