Thursday 17 October 2019

Hospitals without power as blackouts begin to bite in Venezuela

Outspoken: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó gives a news conference in Caracas about the blackouts. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Outspoken: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó gives a news conference in Caracas about the blackouts. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Brian Ellsworth in Caracas

Furious Venezuelans lined up to buy water and fuel yesterday as the country entered a fourth day of a nationwide blackout that has left hospitals without power, food rotting in shops and homes short of water.

Authorities have managed to provide only patchy access to power since the outage began on Thursday in what President Nicolás Maduro called an act of US-backed sabotage. Critics insist it is the result of incompetence and corruption.

The government suspended school and business activities for today without providing any time frame for resolving the situation, leaving many fretting that it could extend indefinitely.

The country's worst-ever power outage comes as Mr Maduro faces a hyperinflationary economic collapse and an unprecedented political crisis. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó in January invoked the constitution to assume the presidency after declaring Mr Maduro's 2018 re-election a fraud.

Angry residents of the Caracas neighbourhood of Chacao yesterday set up barricades along streets to protest about the continued outage.

"The food we had in our refrigerators has spoiled, businesses are closed, there's no communication, not even by cell phone," said shopkeeper Ana Cerrato (49), standing in front of a pile of razor wire and debris.

"No country can bear 50 hours without electricity. We need help. We are in a humanitarian crisis."

Mr Guaidó has criticised severely the government for failing to explain what was going on.

"The regime at this hour, days after a blackout without precedent, has no diagnosis," he said.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez insisted in a TV interview the government was taking care of the situation, without explaining the cause of the continued outage.

Irish Independent

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