Venezuela hit by major blackout, gov’t blames 'sabotage'

Venezuela hit by major blackout, gov’t blames 'sabotage'

Several hundred people gathered in central Caracas for a march to denounce USA pressure on Venezuela, which the president says is the cause of the country's economic situation.

Any attempt of United States imperialist aggression will be given a firm response by the patriots determined to courageously defend their homeland, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Dozens of demonstrators attempted to walk along an avenue in Caracas but were moved onto the sidewalk by police in riot gear, leading them to shout at the officers and push on their riot shields.

Clinics in the sweltering western state of Zulia, which suffers chronic regional blackouts, had scaled back operations after almost 72 hours without power.

He said authorities had restored 70 percent of power in Venezuela since a nationwide outage hit late Thursday, but progress was lost on Saturday when "infiltrators" allegedly struck again.

A major power outage hit crisis-stricken Venezuela on Thursday, according to Reuters witnesses, a problem the government of President Nicolas Maduro quickly blamed on "sabotage" at a hydroelectric dam that provides much of the country's power. Washington has recognized Guaido as Venezuela's president and threatened to launch a military attack to overthrow Maduro.

Mr Guaido was speaking from the back of a pick-up truck after security services prevented the opposition from setting up a stage at their original protest site, arresting three people.

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.

A power outage left much of Venezuela in the dark early Thursday evening in what appeared to be one of the largest blackouts yet in a country where

Venezuela's electrical system was once the envy of Latin America but it has fallen into a state of disrepair after years of poor maintenance and mismanagement.

"I call on the Venezuelan people to make a huge statement in the streets against the usurper, corrupt and incapable regime that has plunged our country into darkness", Guaido wrote on Twitter. Its cause is still unknown.

"They always say the same thing", said Carlos Ramos, an economist who was waiting to see a doctor outside the darkened lobby of a Caracas hospital. "We're fed up", Luis Alvarez, a 51-year-old truck driver, told AFP.

Rubio, who has been driving the Trump administration's confrontational stance toward Maduro, seemed to relish Rodriguez's accusations that he was somehow to blame for the power crisis.

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

One user posted a video of a nurse manually pumping air into the lungs of an infant. "They did everything they could, but with no electricity, what were they to do?" asked Jose Lugo, her distraught uncle.

Pro-government officials often blame outages involving Venezuela's mismanaged and poorly maintained power grid on the opposition.

State-owned electricity operator Corpoelec blamed the outage on act of "sabotage" at the Guri Dam, one of the world's largest hydroelectric stations and the cornerstone of Venezuela's electrical grid. It gave no details.

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