Venezuela: Police block opposition protesters as tensions rise | News | DW | 09.03.2019
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Venezuela: Police block opposition protesters as tensions rise

As Venezuelans endured more power outages, police scuffled with protesters demonstrating against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for people to take to the streets.

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Venezuela power struggle continues

Venezuelan opposition activists scuffled with police on Saturday, in the runup to a rally intended to keep up pressure on acting President Nicolas Maduro.
 

Opposition leader Juan Guaido met with supporters in Caracas and spoke out against the Venezuelan government. He announced that he would embark on a national tour and eventually lead a nationwide march on the capital, Caracas. 

"Once we've finished the tour, the organization in every state, we'll announce the date when all together we'll come to Caracas," said the 35-year-old leader of the legislature, who is recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries.

Security forces thwarted what was meant to be a bigger march. They did not allow a stage to be set up, leading Guaido to speak from the back of a pickup truck, opposition sources said.

Protesters shouted at officers and pushed up against their riot shields. One woman was hit with pepper spray, according to a local broadcaster.

Maduro's Socialist Party organized its own competing march on Saturday to protest against what it calls imperialism by the United States. 

Massive blackout still ongoing

The turmoil took place as the oil-rich OPEC nation was plunged into darkness on Thursday evening in what the governing Socialist Party called an act of US-sponsored sabotage. But opposition critics blamed the blackout on Maduro's government, saying it was the result of two decades of mismanagement and corruption.

Electricity remained intermittent, in what has been categorized as the country's worst blackout in decades. The power flickered on and off in parts of Caracas on Saturday morning. But in much of the country, it has remained out since Thursday afternoon.

Maduro acknowledged that the state was having difficulty restoring power, but said it was due to a new cyberattack.

Read more: EU's inconsistency could complicate efforts to end crisis

Maduro told supporters in Caracas that almost 70 percent of power had been restored when "we received at midday another cyberattack at one of the generators that was working perfectly and that disturbed and undid everything we had achieved.

"The right wing, together with the empire, has stabbed the electricity system, and we are trying to cure it soon," he said.

Blackout deaths reported

Two rights groups focused on health issues said the blackout had contributed to the deaths on Friday of a baby and a teenager, with hospitals unable to provide enough backup energy generation. Authorities have not commented.

The massive power outage has intensified the hardship of a country already crippled by food and medicine shortages.

"We're tired of going so many hours without power, we want Maduro to leave," Maricela Ruiz, 55, told news agency Reuters, holding a sign at a rally in the western city of San Cristobal. "The little food we have is going bad. We don't have enough money to buy my grandson's baby formula. We need help."

Read more: How much influence does Cuba have over Venezuela?

Venezuela has been mired in a major political crisis since Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January following the 2018 election, which Maduro won but was widely considered fraudulent. More than 50 countries, including Germany, support Guaido's plan to lead Venezuela to fair elections.

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.

av, jcg/cmk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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