Venezuela shut schools and suspended the workday on Friday as the worst blackout in decades paralyzed most of the troubled nation for a second day, spurring outrage among citizens already suffering from hyperinflation and a crippling recession.
Power went out late on Thursday afternoon due to a problem at Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, the government said, calling the event an act of “sabotage” by ideological adversaries.
“We will once again defeat this electrical sabotage. We are going to recover this important service for the population,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in comments broadcast over state television.
While blackouts are routine in many Venezuelan provinces, particularly along the western border with Colombia, nationwide power outages under the ruling Socialist Party have never extended for more than a day.
In Caracas, scores of people walked through the streets early in the morning due to the closure of the metro, while others took the few buses that were circulating. Many did not realize the workday was suspended because they could not watch television or listen to the news.
President Nicolas Maduro always attributes major power outages to sabotage by opposition adversaries. His critics say his government has mismanaged the power sector since late socialist leader Hugo Chavez nationalized it in 2007 while setting aside billions of dollars for power projects that were swallowed by corruption.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido slammed the government for bungling the country’s energy supply and dismissed sabotage accusations.
“Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans. Sabotage is burning food and medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections,” he wrote via Twitter, referring to humanitarian aid trucks that went up in flames last month when opposition leaders attempted to bring relief supplies across the Colombian border.
More than 3 million people are believed to have fled Venezuela amid a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation.