Venezuela suspends work, classes due to major blackout
For years blackouts have been common in the west of the oil-rich country but have eventually spread to Caracas and other areas.
CARACAS - Venezuela’s government suspended work and classes on Friday due to a massive electricity blackout that has lasted since the previous evening and is affecting the majority of the country, the vice president said.
President Nicolas Maduro - who has denounced the blackout as an act of “sabotage” - made the decision “in order to facilitate efforts for the recovery of electricity service in the country,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez tweeted.
The blackout in the capital was total and hit at 4.50 pm (20:50 GMT), just before nightfall. Caracas is one of the world’s most crime-ridden cities, so people set out for home early, well before the sun went down.
Telephone services and access to the internet were also knocked out.
The capital’s international airport was hit, according to social media posts from would-be travellers.
A Copa Libertadores soccer game in the city of Barquisimeto was postponed.
Rodriguez said on Twitter that Venezuela was “victim of the imperial electrical war!”
“United Venezuelans will win. The putschists will not pass,” she wrote.
Venezuelans are wearily accustomed to blackouts. For years they have been common in the west of the oil-rich country but have eventually spread to Caracas and other areas.
“We are tired. Exhausted,” said Estefania Pacheco, a sales executive forced to walk 12 kilometres (seven miles) from her office in eastern Caracas to her home across town.
“It is so sad every time this happens,” said the mother of two.
Critics blame the government for failing to invest in the upkeep of the electrical grid, although the government often blames external factors when the lights go out.
The state power company Corpoelec said there has been sabotage at a big hydroelectric plant called Guri in Bolivar state. It gave no details. The facility is one of the biggest in Latin America.
Maduro is struggling in the face of a challenge by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim president and is now backed by some 50 countries led by the United States.
Guaido says Maduro’s rule is illegitimate, arguing that his re-election win last year was fraudulent, and he wants Maduro to resign from the Miraflores Palace and make way for new elections.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro is wrong to blame the US or any other country for Venezuela’s woes.
“Power shortages and starvation are the result of the Maduro regime’s incompetence,” he tweeted.
Guaido tweeted that Venezuela has plenty of hydroelectric plants and more. “We have water, oil and gas. But unfortunately, we have a usurper in Miraflores.”