Venezuela: call for calm amid blackouts and anti-Maduro protests – The Guardian

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Venezuela: call for calm amid blackouts and anti-Maduro protests – The Guardian

Nicolás Maduro’s embattled administration has called for calm after millions of Venezuelans were again plunged into darkness by a nationwide blackout reportedly affecting 21 of its 23 states and the capital, Caracas.

In a late-night television broadcast – which most people were unable to watch because of the outage – the communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed it was the result of a “brutal” attack on a hydroelectric plant on Monday night.

The blackout – which had yet to be resolved by Tuesday morning – came a fortnight after virtually the entire country was paralysed by a six-day power failure.

“We want to ask the people of Venezuela to assist us in this recovery process by continuing to show the tranquility and strength we have demonstrated in recent days because we will manage to defeat this electricity war against the people of Venezuela,” Rodríguez said. “We are working with great determination.”

Earlier, his sister, the vice-president, Delcy Rodríguez, accused Venezuela’s “fascist right” and its “imperial masters” in Washington of causing another major blackout that struck on Monday lunchtime and affected at least 16 states.

Neither offered evidence anti-Maduro “saboteurs” were behind Venezuela’s blackouts. Many people suspect they are the result of crumbling infrastructure caused by years of corruption, incompetence and under-investment.

Others, however, are convinced by the government’s claim that the blackouts are part of a US conspiracy to destabilise the country and topple Maduro.

“Donald Trump will not set foot in our country. This is a free and sovereign nation,” said Thais Coa, a 56-year-old head teacher, after her school was closed by a power failure.

At a recent pro-Maduro rally in Caracas, the Chavista activist and historian José Corredor claimed the blackouts had been “cooked up” by the opposition and the White House in order to provoke chaos that would allow them to seize power – and Venezuela’s natural resources.

“The US wants to take over the world,” Corredor fumed. Asked if he had a message for Donald Trump, Corredor replied in English: “Fuck you.”

The opposition politicians battling to force Maduro from power described Monday night’s blackout as further proof Hugo Chávez’s political heir needed to step down.

“They are liars and they are corrupt,” tweeted Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president in January and is now recognised by most western governments.

“Right now we are planning actions to express the indignation of the entire population which will no longer tolerate the trickery of those responsible for the disaster they have turned Venezuela into,” Guaidó added.

Others voiced concern for the lives of patients in Venezuela’s already buckling hospitals.

María Teresa Belandria, who Guaidó recently named his parallel ambassador to Brazil, tweeted: “All I can do is pray. For the sick. For those who need oxygen. For the babies in incubators. Pray. God, please look to us with merciful eyes.”

Leonardo Padrón, a prominent Venezuelan journalist, tweeted: “This country is a shadow filled with people.”

Venezuela’s capital was left almost entirely in the dark when electricity went off shortly before 10pm on Monday, prompting loud cries of abuse directed at Maduro.

“No doubt they will come out tonight and say this was another imperialist act of sabotage by the US government,” Jerry Rodríguez, a 19-year-old resident of Caracas, predicted before Venezuela’s government did precisely that.

“This is stupid, there’s nothing to support this. There’s no logic to it.”

Caracas was not the only region affected. Local media said at least 21 states lost power including Venezuela’s most populous state, Zulia, and Barinas, where Chávez was born and raised. In the early hours of Tuesday, Venezuela’s presidency announced that school and work would be cancelled for at least 24 hours while it attempted to restore power.

Ysmaria Miranda, a 40-year-old dentist from the northern state of Anzoátegui, said there was no electricity near her home in the city of Anaco. Like many, she had no idea when it might return.

“I feel frustrated. All the basic services [will] fail as here no electricity means no water,” Miranda said.

“I blame … the government. Inefficiency,” she added.

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