Venezuela power blackout triggers school, business closures

Gladys Abbott
March 9, 2019

Large areas of the nation of 31 million people have been left without power for a second day following the outages, which embattled President Nicolas Maduro blamed, without evidence, on the United States.

Though electricity supply is restored in some parts of Venezuela after the worst blackout in decades, the blame game between the two leaders continues.

However, it was short-lived as the lights went off again, extending the blackout beyond 24 hours.

Electricity outages are frequent in Venezuela, where the economy is collapsing under hyperinflation, with chronic shortages of food and medicine and a mass emigration of more than 3 million citizens.

The blackout hit 22 of 23 states by some accounts.

People travel on a pick up van during a power cut in Caracas on March 7, 2019.

The sanctions impacted the Maduro regime's main source of revenue, but the Venezuelan dictator has resisted calls to step down and cede leadership of the country to opposition party leader Juan Guaido.

Blackouts are a daily occurrence across Venezuela, but one of this magnitude is rare. Like other hospitals, she said the facility was relying on generators but only had enough fuel for another day or two and that she was especially anxious about patients in intensive care.

Shops remained closed in Caracas and elsewhere on Friday due to the massive power outage. Some took gas from their cars.

During the blackout, witnesses described scenes of chaos at several hospitals as people tried to move sick relatives in the dark to clinics with better emergency power facilities.

Marielsi Aray, a patient at the University Hospital in Caracas, died after her respirator stopped working.

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

"The night was awful".

Emilse Arellano said urgent dialysis for her youngest child had to be canceled Friday, after a night during which staff worked by the light of cellphones.

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.

Humanitarian aid trucks went up in flames last month when Maduro deployed troops at the Colombian border to prevent the opposition from bringing in relief supplies.

Maduro said Guaido is a puppet of Washington and dismisses his claim to the presidency as an effort by the administration of US President Donald Trump to control Venezuela's oil wealth.

The state power company Corpoelec said there had been sabotage at the Guri hydroelectric plant in Bolivar state, one of the largest in Latin America.

Venezuelan opposition activists scuffled with police on Saturday morning in the run-up to a rally meant to keep up pressure on acting President Nicolas Maduro.

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

Opposition activists said police had dismantled a speakers' stage that had been erected in the street ahead of the demonstration on Saturday, while Guaido tweeted that authorities would fail in any attempt to scare protesters. It gave no details.

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

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