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Venezuelans hit the streets over power outages

March 30, 2019

Public anger is rising over recurring blackouts that have left much of the country without electricity for long periods. Acting President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the blackouts on US-directed sabotage.

An opposition supporter holds a banner reading "#MaduroLeaveNow" as she demonstrates in the streests of Caracas
Image: AFP/Getty Images/Y. Cortez

Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets on Saturday to voice their anger at the patchy power supply, shortage of basic foods and the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Several anti-government protests took place nationwide just as reports emerged of further cuts to the electricity supply in several states.

"The regime wants our hearts filled with fear and darkness," opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido told supporters at a rally in the coastal city of Los Teques.

He made several stops in Miranda state near Caracas, delivering trademark denunciations of Maduro's government and promises of a better life for Venezuela's struggling population, which is living through a deep economic and social crisis.

Read more: Venezuela: Juan Guaido launches 'new phase' of anti-Maduro push

Guaido blamed corruption and mismanagement under Maduro for the recurring blackouts that have crippled much of the country this month.

US 'sabotage' blamed

Maduro, however, said Washington was responsible for directing sabotage designed to help Guaido win a coup against him.

He said the blackouts were caused by "terrorist attacks" on the Guri hydroelectric dam that powers much of the country.

Venezuela suffered a massive weeklong national power outage which began on March 7. Another blackout on Monday saw businesses closed for three days and schools for four before power was slowly restored.

Opposition supporters demonstrate against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas
Living conditions are plummeting in the oil-producing Latin American nation during a protracted political crisisImage: AFP/Getty Images/Y. Cortez

The power cuts have left hospitals struggling, worsened by the already precarious supply of drinking water and many stores not having functioning point-of-sale terminals.

Read more: How millions of 'dirty dollars' were laundered out of Venezuela

Pro-government demonstrations also took place on Saturday in a repeat of rallies seen over several previous weekends against US "imperialism."

Despite a multi-year political crisis that has seen crippling sanctions levied against his government, Maduro has hung on to power, in part due to longstanding military support.

Russia steps in to support Maduro

He has also won diplomatic backing from Russia and China, who accuse Washington of meddling in the country's affairs, through its support for Guaido.

Moscow came to Maduro's aid on Saturday, warning the US to stop interfering in Venezuela's political crisis, a week after the Kremlin sent military planes to Caracas.

Read more: Donald Trump: Russia must leave Venezuela

Saturday's rallies came a day after the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it is poised to deliver aid to Venezuela next month.

The humanitarian group says it will remain neutral and has warned both sides in the conflict not to interfere with the distribution of food and medicine.

mm/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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