March 20, 2019

Venezuela left in the dark as United States sabotage blamed for blackout

09 March 2019, 11:05 | Hattie Nash

Mr Guaido told thousands of supporters he would embark on a tour of the country before leading a nationwide march on the capital

Mr Guaido told thousands of supporters he would embark on a tour of the country before leading a nationwide march on the capital

Venezuela has been mired in a major political crisis since Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, calling Maduro a usurper following the 2018 election, which Maduro won but was widely considered fraudulent.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who most Western nations recognise as Venezuela's legitimate head of state, criticised the government for it and said Maduro was the one sabotaging the nation.

Some parts of Caracas and the rest of the country have had their electricity supply restored and Venezuelans are now bracing themselves for a weekend of pro and anti-government protests.

On Thursday, the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and 20 of the country's 23 regions were left without electricity. But the relief was short-lived as the lights went off again, extending the blackout beyond 24 hours. In recent years Venezuela has experienced an economic collapse, with severe food shortages and inflation reaching at least 800,000% last year.

"We strongly condemn this act of aggression - the most brutal in the past 200 years - which has affected the Venezuelan people", he said.

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Guaido did a survey of Caracas Friday to evaluate the impact of the blackout, blaming Maduro for the sorry state of affairs and looking to capitalize on what some decried as a sign of Venezuela's newfound status as a "failed state" even though it sits atop the world's largest oil reserves.

Maduro, who was re-elected previous year in a vote widely viewed as fraudulent, blames the crisis on a US -backed sabotage campaign. Others posted photos of long lines of cars at gas stations in hopes of getting fuel.

Marielsi Aray, a patient at the University Hospital suffering from an aggravated infection, died at dawn on Friday after her respirator stopped working, her uncle Jose Lugo said.

Blackouts are a daily occurrence across Venezuela, but one of this magnitude is rare.

"The doctors tried to help her by pumping manually".

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Emilse Arellano said urgent dialysis for her child had to be canceled Friday, after a night where staff worked in the light of cell phones.

The putrid odor of rotting flesh hung around the entrance to Caracas's main Bello Monte morgue, where refrigerators had stopped working and anxious relatives gathered outside, waiting to be allowed to bury their dead.

Following Mr Maduro's decision to close the borders to keep out humanitarian aid for his people, the country was completely isolated on Friday.

Later, his communications minister, Jorge Rodriguez, announced on state television that Venezuela would make a complaint about the US's alleged role in the blackout before the UN Commission on Human Rights.

President Nicolas Maduro slammed the move and accused Guaido of seeking to stage a US-directed coup.

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Venezuela's normally hyper-active social media was muted during the blackout.

Thermoelectric plants, which are meant to back up the hydroelectric dam, are operating well below capacity, said Miguel Lara, an electrical engineer who formerly ran a state agency that oversaw the national power grid. It gave no details.

Guaido says Maduro's rule is illegitimate, arguing that his re-election win past year was fraudulent.

Guaido and Maduro, whose chief backers are Russian Federation and Cuba, planned rival demonstrations as they seek to energize supporters.

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