Power outage in Venezuela leaves millions in dark
CARACAS, Venezuela — A massive blackout plunged Caracas and much of the nation into chaos Thursday, forcing the rush-hour closure of the capital’s metro and sending tens of thousands of people into the streets in what the authorities alleged was an act of “sabotage.”
“This is part of a power war against the state,” the government-owned electricity operator, Corpolec, said in a tweet. It said the Guri hydroelectric complex in southern Bolivar state — the source of most of the country’s electricity — had been “sabotaged.” But authorities provided no evidence of that.
Blackouts have become common in Venezuela as a severe economic crisis has made it difficult to perform maintenance or purchase imported spare parts. But Thursday’s outage appeared to be broader than usual, with local media reports saying it had hit nearly all of the country’s 23 states.
Venezuela is especially tense now, as a U.S.-backed opposition movement seeks to push President Nicolas Maduro from power. More than 50 countries have recognized the National Assembly speaker, Juan Guaido, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, citing irregularities in Maduro’s re-election last year. The opposition leader is planning a rally for Saturday. Maduro accuses him of attempting a coup with help from Washington.
The U.S. government in January imposed stiff sanctions on Venezuelan oil — its principal export — but there was no sign that the blackout was related.
The outage began about 5 p.m., the beginning of rush hour. In some Caracas office buildings, people were trapped in elevators. Long lines stretched along main avenues as residents scrambled to get on the few public buses that are still running. Traffic clogged the streets amid inoperative traffic lights.
Maria Lopez, 35, a cleaning woman, normally rides the metro but was forced to walk to her home several miles away after the trains shut down. “I live so far away. And all of Caracas is without power,” she said as she trudged along a main avenue.
Tomas Castro, 36, a government employee, watched throngs of people pouring down the street in a central business district. “This is not going to lead to any uprising. People have grown used to it,” he said, predicting that Maduro’s government would be removed only by force.
“Today there’s a blackout. Tomorrow there are shortages. Then there is the insane crime,” he said, ticking off the city’s problems.
Anger at the government was apparent. Pedestrians periodically broke into a popular chant, disparaging Maduro’s mother.
Blackouts are just one of the problems that are increasingly crippling the country. There are frequent water shortages, inflation is soaring toward 10 million percent and more than 3 million people have migrated abroad in the past few years.