Blackout brings Venezuela to standstill

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Caracas and most of the rest of the country have no power (AFP photo)

(BBC) Schools and workplaces in Venezuela have closed as an electricity blackout continues into a second day.

The power cut, which started on Thursday afternoon, was caused by issues at a major hydroelectric plant.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro has blamed the opposition, accusing them of sabotage.

It comes amid rising tensions over opposition efforts – backed by the US and some Latin American countries – to remove Mr Maduro from power.

Commuters in Caracas were plunged into almost complete darkness during rush hour on Thursday, before the blackout extended to other areas.

The lack of electricity has caused flights to be diverted from the main airport in Caracas, where thousands of workers were forced to walk home. The problems stemmed from the Guri dam plant and affected the telephone network and metro in Caracas.

Venezuela depends on its vast hydroelectric infrastructure, rather than its oil reserves, for its domestic electricity supply. But decades of underinvestment has damaged the major dams, and sporadic blackouts are commonplace.

Mr Maduro has accused opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó of trying to mount a coup with the help of “US imperialists”.

Mr Guaidó said on Twitter that the blackout was a matter of “chaos, concern and anger” and “evidence of the usurper’s inefficiency”, adding that “light would return” once Mr Maduro was removed from power.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in, blaming the “Maduro regime’s incompetence”.

“No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro,” he tweeted.

 

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