efe-epaCaracas

The Fetraelec union representing Venezuelan electrical workers said Monday that the industry is suffering a loss of skilled personnel amid a migration crisis that has seen more than 4 million people leave the oil-rich nation, according to UN figures.

"There's a brain drain" in the state-owned utility Corpoelec, said Reinaldo Diaz, a member of the Fetraelec board of directors, during a protest by public employees demanding better wages.

Diaz then told EFE that at least 20,000 employees had left the electric industry over the past 12 months, leaving the remaining workforce overburdened.

"The personnel shortage is making the sector less professional, which in turn makes the workplace much less safe," he added upon reporting three deaths in the past year.

Last Friday the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency said in a joint statement that more than 4 million Venezuelans have left the country due to the economic crisis.

Despite everything, the government of President Nicolas Maduro, through Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, dismissed that number and charged the UN agency with going back to the old accusations against Venezuela.

"Defeat and desperation lead them to recycle ideas justifying their obsessive aggression against the country," he wrote Sunday on Twitter.

Corpoelec started suffering a crisis of its own five years ago, when the blackouts began that peaked last March.

At that time, two power outages at the Guri Dam hydroelectric plant, the most important one in the South American country, caused numerous blackouts that went on for days.

The Maduro government blamed the electricity failures on cyber attacks directed from the United States, while accusing the local opposition of attacking and putting out of service a number of thermal power stations.

The opposition laughed off those charges and said the lack of funding was the real cause of the outages.

Though in Caracas electricity cuts are no longer frequent, in at least 20 of the country's 23 states a rationing plan is underway that leaves citizens without power for several hours a day, with the consequent breakdown of services like mobile phones, Internet and the water supply.

At the same time, Venezuela, the country with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet, is going through an acute economic crisis most notable in the shortages and soaring inflation.