Mon | May 20, 2019

Nationwide blackouts become the norm in Venezuela

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2019 | 6:12 PM
Anti-government protesters march in Caracas, Venezuela yesterday.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Another day, another blackout.

Power went out across Venezuela today, just as it did yesterday, and the day before that.

But while some electricity had returned by afternoon, jittery Venezuelans weren't so much celebrating the lights coming on as wondering when the next outages would flick them off.

"No one can put up with this. We spend almost all day without electricity," said Karina Camacho, a 56-year-old housewife who was about to buy a chicken when electronic payment machines stopped working. "There's been no water since (last) Monday, you can't call by phone, we can't pay with cards or even eat."

As the latest blackout unfolded, many took to balconies and building windows to bang pots in protest and shout curses at President Nicolas Maduro, who they consider responsible for the power failures.

Others responded to a call by opposition leader Juan Guaido to demonstrate against the government, blocking roads and burning rubbish until "colectivos," or frequently armed government supporters, appeared to arrive on motorbikes.

The ongoing blackouts now mark another point of tension in a country paralysed by political and economic turmoil, compounding a humanitarian crisis and deepening a prolonged standoff between two political parties vying for power.

Netblocks, a group monitoring Internet censorship, said network data showed just 15 percent of Venezuela was online after the latest power cuts struck, while water supply, phone service and Internet continued to be shaky and unreliable.

On Twitter, Guaido today reiterated his claim that government neglect and corruption had had left the electrical grid in shambles after years of mismanagement.

"There is no sabotage," the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly wrote. "They brought the electrical system to a collapse because they are corrupt and now they can't resolve it because they are incapable."

Maduro alleges U.S.-led sabotage is the cause, citing "imperial aggression" without offering up clear evidence. On Twitter, he encouraged supporters to refer to a bulletin which explained the electrical failure as a result of an international effort to have Venezuela considered a "failed" state.

The United States and dozens of other countries support Guaido's claim that Maduro's re-election last year was illegitimate. The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions and other economic penalties on Venezuela in an attempt to force him out of power, but he has yet to show signs of backing down

The latest outage comes just weeks after Venezuela experienced nationwide blackouts on March 7 which shut down schools, offices and factories and paralysed nearly every part of the once oil-rich country of 31 million.