Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Riots erupt as Venezuela's Maduro introduces 30-day power rationing

Government limits power as authorities try to fix what industry experts say is a poorly maintained national grid that badly needs investment

Caracas residents blocked streets and set fires after electricity went out again on Sunday in the Venezuelan capital and some other regions, fuelling a climate of political unrest.

President Nicolas Maduro in a speech on Sunday, on national television announced a 30-day power rationing plan, which he said would help the country deal with the outages. The embattled president also warned against any further unrest.

Power went out in all of western Zulia state at 9.55am, Willy Casanova, mayor of the city of Maracaibo, said on Twitter. The outage extended to most of the country, the Panorama newspaper reported. Netblocks.org, which tracks internet disruptions globally, said only 15 per cent of the country had internet after the power failure.

Weeks of power cuts have increased instability in Venezuela. With Mr Maduro unable to restore power, he has accused National Assembly head Juan Guaido – who is recognised as the interim president by 50 governments, including the US – of a conspiracy.

Fuerzas Armadas, a main traffic artery in the capital, was a focal point of the protests, which followed power cuts over the preceding two days. Mr Maduro said the government plans to ration power as authorities try to fix what industry experts say is a poorly maintained national grid that badly needs investment.

Mr Guaido said two protesters on Fuerzas Armadas suffered bullet wounds, without giving further details. Pro-government paramilitary motorcycle gangs are taking the lead in repressing protests because many soldiers are also upset by the deteriorating conditions, he said.

“Of course we would like a transition to democracy that is peaceful, democratic, quick above all and immediate,” Mr Guaido said on CNN en Espanol on Sunday. The loss of lives during this power struggle results from Mr Maduro’s resistance to a democratic and constitutional transition of power, he said.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said power went out on Friday and Saturday evenings because of attacks on the national power grid, Venezuelan national television reported. Without providing evidence, Mr Maduro has blamed US President Donald Trump and the Venezuelan opposition for alleged attacks seeking to spark unrest and oust him from power.

Schools will remain closed on Monday while public and private institutions work a shorter day to 2pm until further notice, Mr Rodriguez said on state television.

The alleged attacks caused considerable damage at the Guri hydroelectric plant, affecting generators, transmission and distribution, the government said. The government said it’s applying “all its strength” to repair the system.

Updated: April 1, 2019 01:49 PM

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